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Club gives students real-life experiences

By Heather Graves
Staff Writer

GREEN BAY – Data research and analytics aren’t exactly exciting topics to spend free time on, especially for high school students.

A partnership between UW-Green Bay, the Green Bay Packers and Green Bay East High School looks to change that with the launch of The National Sports Analytics Club Program (SACP).

“The intent is to teach students how to analyze and develop solutions for business problems identified by the Packers,” UW-Green Bay Business Professor Gaurav Bansel said.

Bansel said the club wants to take what students learn in the classroom and apply it to real-world situations as a collaboration of secondary and higher education with real-world applications.

The after-school club has a university mentor, Bansel, a high school mentor East STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teacher William Garay and an industry mentor Packers data scientist Garrison Cummings.

Garay said SACP affords the opportunity to promote data analytics to students, as well as the opportunity to learn and grow as an educator.
“The program provides an exciting opportunity to promote data analytics at a time when data analysts are in demand,” he said.

Also, Garay said the historical ties between East and the Packers didn’t go unnoticed.

“East and the Packers share a lot of history, so it seemed like a natural fit,” he said.

Started in 2017 as part of an effort to eliminate the underrepresentation of young women and Black and Latinx youth in advanced STEM degrees and careers as data scientists, the program now has 54 official clubs across the country.

The one at East joins Golda Meir School in Milwaukee as the first two in Wisconsin.

Bansel said SACP uses sports to spark interest in analytics.

“Students have a natural interest in sports,” he said. “Using sports analytics and Packers datasets will create enthusiasm, interest and involvement in seeking solutions and greater insight using analytics. Such engagement will develop a natural interest in analytics and academics in general.”

He said the club also provides role models who create a positive spiral effect.

“Everyone involved gains from such partnerships,” he said. “Data scientists are in great demand, and our businesses and the county as a whole have a great need for data scientists. Every business and organization, including government agencies, such as the FBI and the defense department, increasingly rely on data analytics.”

Growing the interest of high school students, Bansel said, will help address the shortage of data scientists.

“Getting students engaged and interested in such programs creates interest in data and analytics and academics in general, which is great for universities, as we can get better-prepared students,” he said. “Partnering with community organizations helps businesses as they can get better employees who understand their needs. Also, it helps to create more awareness about data and analytics in diverse sections of our community.”

Garay said students will benefit the most.

“They’ll get to learn in a real-world setting with the hopes that some of them go into STEM fields,” he said.

He said the Packers will provide the data and the business problem, which the students will address.

“The goal is to promote and teach data analytics through a fun and applicable avenue,” Garay said. “Working on a project that will help the Green Bay Packers provides that avenue.”

He said students will use data to determine how to improve the fan experience at Lambeau Field.

“I’m excited that the students’ work will help pinpoint the factors that we can focus on to make immediate improvements and make every game memorable for our fans,” Cummings said. “The data science from the students will create valuable insights that will drive action within our organization.”

Garay said the club plans to meet weekly to “develop an understanding of data and the programming language that we will be using.”

SACP is open to all high school students.

“Most of the students currently are kids that I contacted personally,” he said. “Other students joined by word of mouth. We have a great group of kids to start off.”

Bansel said SACP shows students a different side of analytics.

“I thought this was a great project to inspire and develop students from those sections of society that have not been usually associated with a traditional data scientist,” he said.

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