Big Data and Small Business in Madrid
Together with U.S. partners, local faculty, and private companies in Spain, Accent is developing new programs that explore data science and coding through a combination of coursework and experiential learning. Madrid provides a great setting for these programs, as it has attracted new investments and is becoming a major hub for technological innovation. The pandemic has seen the creation of new startup incubators and information technology companies, which work alongside the many traditional businesses already operating in the city.
Last summer a group of students from the University of California Education Abroad Program participated in the program “Python and Data Science”. Students were in Madrid for six weeks, attended two courses taught by local faculty, and participated in a project with a local startup. The program was designed as an introduction to programming and data science for non-majors, although this learning opportunity also attracted computer science majors.
The two courses offered were Introduction to Data Science and Python Programming, providing the students with a first exposure to data science, its foundations, and tools, as well as a specific programming language. Courses featured a focus on practical applications and the importance of gathering and analyzing data in today’s business world.
For the startup project, the program collaborated with Shoppermotion, a startup that uses spacial tracking and big data processing to analyze the movements of shoppers in large stores and supermarkets. Students first met as a group with Jorge Bueno, the company’s founder and CEO, who introduced the startup and its operation. After Dr. Bueno gave students access to the raw data that they are collecting, students were divided into groups and assigned projects. Each group had to process and correctly analyze the data at their disposal to answer a set of questions posed to them, and ultimately to create recommendations for the company’s customers. At the end of the course, all groups presented their work to the faculty and Dr. Bueno.
Through the combination of coursework and experiential learning, students acquired new digital skills and put them to good use at the same time. The network of startups in Madrid provided an opportunity for them to take the lead on an actual consulting project, acquiring valuable experience in the connection between data science and the business world. Finally, students gained an international perspective by actively engaging a different business and academic culture.