Journey of a High School Senior using Aster

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My journey with Aster began with the book Blown to Bits. I became fascinated with the vast amount of data and the numerous possibilities to harness that data. Then, I got a chance to volunteer at the Scientific Python conference in Austin, Texas, earlier in the summer of 2015 and that was the big turning point for me. That’s when I began my research. I got my start with Big Data on a website called BigML.com. I graduated my way to the Teradata Aster analytics software because I needed a platform that would allow me to load gigabytes of data and provide advanced analytics capability but would also be available at no cost.

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            My curious attitude led me to start my independent research journey. Ever since the SciPy conference I was inspired to leverage data and information to find solutions in interdisciplinary fields. My enthusiasm was quickly diffused when I learned that first I would need data. I was nervous about this since I had no idea where to begin. I started by using my trusted friend Google and did a quick search which gave me a list of open data sets. I had all these ideas about things I wanted to do. I quickly landed on two topics that I thought would be challenging yet allow me to provide some value to the community. I chose to focus on my research on Seismic Data set from USGS.gov and Crime Data from opendata.dc.gov

            Problem was that I knew approximately 0% about how to use Teradata Aster Express. Thankfully, the Teradata Aster Community website from where I downloaded, Aster Express, the free version had helpful instructions on how to actually download and a link to the Youtube videos created by Mr. John Thuma. These videos along with the Aster community portal became my lifeline.

            With just a bit of help from some data scientists from the Aster community, I was able to activate the cluster, load data into a table, and run the nPath and cFilter functions on the data. Then came the fun part. Turning my analyses into visualizations. I used the nPathviz and cFilterviz functions for this and learned how to use Aster Lens to access my visualizations. I realized that there wasn’t much for me to do with the seismic data using nPath and cFilter, but using cFilters on DC crime data unearthed a gold mine of information. So much information, in fact, that I was able to turn my free-time musings into a research project.

            One more thing: I’m 17. All this was done towards the end of the summer before my senior year in high school, when I started applying to colleges. I continued my research of both well into the school year, while currently juggling 6 AP classes. I also managed to score a meeting with the Washington DC Police Office of Information Technology to present my findings.

            That just goes to show you how intimidating using this software may seem at first, but it really isn’t. The software is made to be used in an understandable format with little programming skills, takes away the complexity of writing complex algorithms, and makes it very easy to use the 100+ prebuilt functions it comes with. In addition, everyone I have met and asked for help during my research has been forthcoming and excited to assist.  (553 words)

N Patel, Senior, BW High School