Cal Poly Month

July is Cal Poly Month here at Weekly Map!

In May, I had the opportunity to work with a few classes at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. I was invited by Dennis Sun, an assistant professor in the statistics department who teaches in the school’s data science program. Dennis’s task is to teach data science students how to understand, manipulate, and represent data of all different sorts. And one of the important topics he teaches is how to map statistical data.

After Dennis and I taught his students all about different kinds of thematic maps, their lab project was to make a map puzzle for this website. They had to come up with an idea, find relevant data, make the map, write up hints, and write up a solution. (Or as I call it, a typical Sunday evening) For the entire month of July, I will be taking a break from cartography. Instead, you’ll get to wrestle with some of the most interesting maps made by the undergraduate data science students of Cal Poly.

You will notice that some of the maps are aesthetically different from the ones we normally post. That’s mainly because Dennis emphasizes coding using Python in his class, so the maps are made in a different way. Hopefully, you will all enjoy the change of pace!

I emerged from my experience at Cal Poly more convinced than ever of the importance of the marriage between data science and geography. When students are learning about how to manipulate statistical data in data or computer science classes, they need to learn to appreciate in a sophisticated way where their data comes from and what it represents. And when students are learning about the world, they need to learn the technical skills that will allow them to present their knowledge to a broader audience. One of the founding principles of this site was the idea that understanding the visual representation of data is a vital skill that will serve students well in each and every school subject.

I’m grateful to Dennis, to Prof. Alex Dekhtyar, and to the Cal Poly Department of Computer Science for inviting me to San Luis Obispo and collaborating on this project. And, of course, I want to say thank you to the students whose hard work has let me take a month off from making maps! May you all enjoy the fruits of their labor as much as I enjoyed working with them.