August 10, 2017

Detectives were on campus last week, but they didn’t come to solve crimes.

These investigators were participating in the Data Detectives Camp, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) summer camp that focuses on statistics. The camp, in its second year, was held last week for 24 randomly-selected rising sixth- and seventh-graders who learned how to ask the right questions, collect and analyze data and determine answers.

The free day camp is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in collaboration with the American Statistical Association, University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, the CDC Museum, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Joint Programs in Survey Methodology.

“I'm so enthusiastic about hosting the Data Detectives Camp here at the School of Public Health,” said School of Public Health Dean Dr. Boris D. Lushniak. “We have a great partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, and a bunch of kids eager to learn.”

Lushniak said he hopes that the experience that the students got at the camp would create a thriving interest in public health, and perhaps one day become leaders in the field.

The camp gives a chance for boys and girls to learn about statistics through a variety of fun, hands-on activities, because statistics and probability concepts are part of the Common Core State Standards.

During the course of the week students learned about distributions by measuring the heights of fellow campers, and saw what happened to their average height when a 7-foot-tall basketball player got added to their data.

The week culminated in group presentations that helped them solve a crime.

Being so close to Washington D.C. is a tremendous benefit for the School of Public Health, because it allows the university to bring in some of the country’s leading minds in public health and other fields for events like data detectives.

National Center for Health Statistics Director Charles J. Rothwell visited the campers on their last day and gave them some advice.

“All through your life, what you’re going to need is the ability to use numbers,” he said. “And to use numbers in a way that you can figure out how to make your life better.”