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One of the first concepts I talk about in my data visualization course is the idea of the elementary perceptual task (EPT), an idea explored in depth by visualization pioneers William S. Cleveland and Robert McGill. Essentially, EPTs are visual building blocks for comparing quantities. The EPTs are summarized nicely in Figure 1 from Graphical Perception: Theory, Experiementation, and Application to the Development of Graphical Methods: For example, looking at the two dots in the upper-left pane, we perceive that the top dot represents a larger quantity than the bottom dot, because it is higher on a common scale than the bottom dot.

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The fall semester is over and final grades are in, which means it’s time to reflect on what just took place and how to grow from here. Today, I reflect on my third time teaching the data visualization course. This course has come a long way since the first time I taught it in Fall 2015, and yet there are still so many improvements to make! One of the concepts I want to greater emphasize next time I teach the course are the Gestalt principles, which Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka summarizes as the idea that “The whole is other than the sum of the parts.

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The midterm project for my data visualization course this past fall required students to submit to the ASA’s Police Data Challenge. The competition involved analyzing millions of 911 calls for one of three cities (Baltimore, Cincinnati, or Seattle). I had the students investigate the Seattle data set, since it contained latitudes and longitudes of each call. Several weeks later, we received the exciting news that one of the teams won “Best Overall” among undergraduate teams!

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Winona State University undergraduates made a great impression at the 2017 MinneMUDAC data analytics competition On November 3-4, Winona State statistics and data science students participated in the fantastic MinneMUDAC 2017 data analytics competition. Students worked in teams of up to five students for one month analyzing de-identified administrative medical and pharmacy claims data provided by Optum. The competition required students to analyze complicated data on health insurance claims made by Type-II diabetics.

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Monday morning, October 30, found me groggy and sandy-eyed. The culprit was the 5-hour and 17-minute, 10-inning thriller between the LA Dodgers and Houston Astros in Game 5 of the 2017 the night before. Thanks to living in the Central Time Zone, I went to bed around 1am. The Astros ended up defeating the Dodgers 13-12, but the game was insane, featuring three comebacks from deficits of 3 runs or more.

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This past summer, I along with my colleagues Chris Malone and Brant Deppa had the fantastic opportunity to host four students for a 10-week summer research experience for undergraduates (REU). Winona State was awarded the REU by the American Statistical Association, which had received a grant from the NSF to fund four students at each of nine sites over the course of three years (three different sites per year). Megan Aadland (South Dakota State), Jenn Halbleib (Amherst), Adrianna Kallis (Iowa State), and Eva Tourangeau (Lawrence) were selected from a competitive, national pool of undergraduates.

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This visualization project was inspired by the excellent This American Life episode, Is This Working? The entire episode is well worth a listen, but the gist of the episode was that racial inequity in disciplinary action translates into racial inequity in academic outcomes. I was curious to see if this association held up, in the Winona Area Public Schools, using publicly available data from the Minnesota Department of Education Data Center.

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As I was watching Chris Rock host the 2016 Oscars, I decided to finally scratch my curiosity itch and learn R’s Twitter API, twitteR. The 2016 Oscars were controversial, due to the fact that all the actors and actresses nominated were white for the second year in a row. Chris Rock made sure to point this out in his opening monologue, and tweets began using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to advance the conversation.

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