Training a highly-skilled tech workforce is something that every tech training institution must think deeply about. Curriculums must be designed and implemented with the utmost goal of creating a highly-skilled workforce ready to work in dynamic skills `- hungry’ industry. Working on projects in the industry/with the industry is one way of bridging the existing skills gaps. To support the learning and training we need to think outside the box. Students will need to be equipped with the right skills, knowledge, and attitude.
At JENGA School, we require our students to implement a capstone project in their 3rd and 4th modules in our intensive Data Science programs. In this blog, the Cohort three students at JENGA school reflect on their journey of project idealization from “head to paper”. By working on a project, students will have the opportunity to explore various ideas and gain important knowledge in Data Science. Each student presents an executive summary of the Idealization process.
My name is Graham Mbai, a computer science graduate and a Cohort 3 Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) student at JENGA school. I’m passionate about data science and AI and it’s a great learning experience to work on a project and try coming up with solutions that can be of benefit to society. It is one thing to have an idea about a project and it is another thing to actually execute the idea and see it through to the very end.
It doesn’t take a genius to note that many happenings around us can be great inspiration for a data science project. The most important factor I have to consider is the availability of data. Getting data can be expensive and time-consuming but that is a small price to pay as compared to what the data can actually do and the kind of solutions it can help me achieve.
Another important factor I have to consider is the kind of machine learning algorithms that best suit my idea. This can also be challenging because as a data scientist in the making, I need to start thinking of new solutions to the challenges that come up and this is only achieved through thorough research and thinking outside the box.
With the right hands to hold on to and guide my way throughout this journey, I am confident that every step of the project will be exciting and a great opportunity to expand my mind while having an amazing learning experience. What seems like a hard nut to crack will finally become easy since I am equipped with the right tools and guidance. Hence, I am able to navigate through the challenges that may arise.
Therefore, it is important to note that for every idea a better solution can be found. This gives me the confidence to think of every idea as doable and drastically reduces my fear of pursuing whatever kind of project I think of. Currently, my top ideas are video analytics, computer vision, and deep learning. Past video data can be used to train models which can be used to curb insecurity and alert citizens on the safety of their surroundings. Execution of this idea heavily depends on the reliability of data but this is a challenge that can be overcome.
My name is Lydiah Gacheri Nturibi. I recently completed my undergraduate degree in Geomatics Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems (GEGIS) at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). I am also a Cohort 3 student taking data science at JENGA School.
My main reason for pursuing data science was to hone new skills that are increasingly becoming important in my career. The field of Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) is constantly changing to accommodate data science trends such as Machine Learning (ML) and AI.
Currently, there are few institutions not just locally but also globally that allow students to bridge the gap between both fields. When I joined this course, I knew it would be an uphill task to build a connection between both fields while building new skills to become a better data scientist and a GIS specialist. Although I am yet to complete the course, I can proudly say that I used data science skills and tools to work on my undergraduate project.
It is no surprise that for this module, I decided to settle on a project that highlighted both fields. While coming up with my project, my primary intention was to develop something that would allow me to showcase my data science and GIS skills to the world. I selected a satellite image analysis project because I have previously worked with remote sensing images and want to gain a deeper understanding of how image segmentation works.
This is not to say that I am 100 percent sure of what I want to do, nor the tools I will use in the project. As someone who loves new challenges, I believe this project will challenge me while giving me the opportunity to build both data science and GIS skills. After all, we live in a world of endless possibilities. By the end of this capstone project, I shall have provided a good solution to a real-life challenge facing the world today. I will also have come closer to achieving my career goal of becoming a spatial data scientist.
My name is Felista Mogire. I am a Data Science and AI student at JENGA school. I also work at the National Irrigation Authority as a Systems Administrator. It has been quite a journey for me to come up with an idea for the capstone project. Selecting a project can be brain-wracking as there are a number of issues to navigate among them being data unavailability and inaccessibility. In Kenya, data is not generally publicly accessible and the process of requesting data can be daunting and unfruitful.
The process I used to select a project was to first list down a number of project ideas and possible data sources for each. Once I had written my list, I went over it, and next to each one, I wrote down who or what offices I could approach for this data.
For data that I needed to extract myself, (for example from websites), I wrote down what resources and tools I would require. The next thing I did was to contact people requesting data. I also researched the tools and resources for scraping data from social media websites as one of my ideas required that kind of data. Within a few weeks, I had narrowed down my list to two ideas out of which I finally settled on one.
The project I am now working on is on using Machine Learning algorithms to predict the risk of reoffending for offenders. This is useful to the courts and Judicial System for determining the length of sentences, bail amounts, early releases, probation supervision, and many others. I am in the process of requesting a Kenyan dataset to work with. In the event that I do not get that, I will use a dataset from the United States state of IOWA that I obtained from Kaggle.
My name is Wamaitha Nyamu, a data engineer by profession and a life learner, currently enrolled at JENGA school Cohort Three. The ideation process has been quite challenging for me especially when I got to document my idea. It’s easier to lie to yourself with thoughts in your mind than words on a page.
Over the course of settling on an idea, I constantly found myself battling with the process of documenting the idea. In fact, by the third class, I was still unsure of what idea I would pursue. The ideas I was coming up with until this point were either data deficient or outright ridiculous. Nonetheless, I settled on a subject very close to home: Money.
The value of Kenya’s shilling has depreciated by 3.5% to the dollar in 2021 after a seven-month losing streak, adding to an incurred 7.8% loss in 2020. The value of Bitcoin on the other hand has gone from trading at $3,895 in 2020 to $47,743 as of January 2022. The idea is to use skills learned at JENGA school to devise a way to make predictions on how different cryptocurrencies will move.
The task will challenge me to think beyond simple time series analysis and put AI to the test. An even interesting point to this project is getting to understand how market psychology works. Bitcoin in itself has performed so well due to market perception. Something even more interesting I hope to learn is how AI and blockchain can interweave together.
My name is Sifa Kinoti, an Environmental Engineering student at the University of Nairobi and a member of Cohort 3 at JENGA school. My journey of idealizing my JENGA school project has been a rollercoaster. I thought I had it figured out until it came down to drafting the proposal. I am taking this data science course to boost my technical skills in the field of environmental engineering, so I knew I would want to do a project in that field.
My biggest challenge was settling on which project to undertake. This decision was influenced by a couple of factors. One factor was the availability of open data. For some of the projects I thought of undertaking, the data was not readily available or it was outdated and inadequate.
The other challenge I had was my level of expertise. I was at first tempted to do an Internet of Things (IoT)/ML project despite my little experience with designing IoT devices. I later realized that it is not wise to take on more than you can chew, especially since I do not have all day and night to work on this project. It is best to work with what you know, as you build onto your skillset.
The third biggest challenge was identifying what kind of output I desire to build. Would I be building a predictive app, or an analysis model to help industries? The list is endless. Eventually, I looked at the skills I would like to gain and my personal endgame i.e. if I would want to work in a big factory, which kind of project would I be working on on a daily basis.
Finally, I settled on a project to track air quality in Nairobi, Kenya. The data is readily available and dealing with such data is not new to me and it is a good challenge. This project is dear to me as I am passionate about environmental sustainability, especially climate change. Undertaking this project would build my portfolio and dream of becoming a green engineer. I am looking forward to the journey of developing my proposal and learning new skills as I implement the project.
Coming up with a data science idea for a capstone project can be an uphill task. It requires a great deal of effort and determination but that does not mean that the task is not achievable. My experience has been filled with a lot of learning and unlearning.
At first, I wanted to go for something that stands out, a project with the heavy data science terms that pop out. This stressed me out a lot, since any idea that I would get, I’d dismiss it as being too simple. This was my first mistake as there is nothing too simple. I remember in one of our classes, Dr. Lawrence Nderu pointed out that our ideas should be something simple and interesting. He also said we should view this experience as a chance to practice what we have already learnt then build upon that to gain new skills.
This is where I got an epiphany and was able to get back on the right path. I noted down all the random ideas I had, did my research, and eliminated them based on various factors. The major factor was the availability of data and how feasible the idea was within the period of time I had.
Eventually, I settled on a project to develop an optimized model that detects fraudulent motor insurance claims by doing a performance comparative study of machine learning algorithms for fraud detection. As I write this journal entry, I am only getting started on the research but I know there is so much work and learning to be done on my end, and I intend to do that and so much more.
I couldn’t agree more that conceptualizing project ideas is a daunting task. The experiences recounted by the students are quite relatable to any researcher out there trying to navigate through their research journey.
Despite all this, the level of persistence and commitment so far manifested by this cohort affirms their readiness to withstand pressure to ensure that the goals of this specific module are met. The project ideas proposed are quite interesting and watching them grow to valuable ideas is quite fulfilling. I anticipate seeing these great ideas translate to excellent solutions for the challenges they present.
JENGA School is a professional tech skills development institution that’s on a mission to bridge the tech skills gap in Africa by equipping you with the skills you need to become an innovation leader in the tech space and a top-tier candidate for those top jobs everyone secretly wants but doesn’t know how to get. Check out our Advanced Data Science Program and Foundations in Data science Program for more information.
This blog is a collaboration between Dr. Lawrence Nderu, Graham Mbai, Lydia Gacheri, Felisters Mogire, Wamaitha Nyamu, Sifa Kinoti, Joy Grace Ngugi, & Daisy Ondwari.