Virtual CodeDay Winter 2021 – HPCC Systems Big Data Challenge

LexisNexis Risk Solutions have been a sponsor of CodeDay since 2014. We started this program to provide students with an opportunity to explore careers in computer science and to introduce them to coding, while also introducing LexisNexis Risk Solutions to students interested in coding across the US. As well as providing financial sponsorship, we have hosted CodeDay in a number of our US offices. Over the years, hundreds of employees have volunteered as CodeDay judges and mentors as part of our global community program RELX Cares.  

Big data workshops are now a regular feature of the CodeDay program. The idea behind these workshops is to help school children as young as 14, understand how Big Data works in a way that is accessible to them. Using HPCC Systems during these workshops, gives students the opportunity to see a big data analytics platform in action and they also get to see and use the ECL language, which was designed specifically for creating queries into Big Data. 

Monica Garrett, Director Community Relations, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group, manages the sponsorship with CodeDay. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit or contact Monica directly.

Photo of Monica Garrett, Director Community Relations, LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group

“Over the years, we have been able to support thousands of students through this program. As much as students enjoy learning to code, the most positive outcome of CodeDay is the interaction between the students and our employees.  Employees who volunteer as mentors and judges for CodeDay inspire students to improve their coding skills and they encourage them to also improve soft skills like teamwork, communication and public speaking.”

Image showing the CodeDay logo

CodeDay is specifically for school children, providing workshops and events designed to encourage attendees to learn about and use coding skills. Over 25% of the attendees at the February 2021 event said they had never coded before and a further 50% said they had only taken a basic introduction to coding class previously. It was another successful and well attended event with over 1000 children taking part, representing over 25 countries, with more than 130 apps, games and electronics projects submitted.

CodeDay is not just about the learning though, it is also about encouraging those who attend to have the confidence to join a community of coders, whether they are completely new to it or already have some knowledge and skills.

It’s really impressive what this organisation does, the statistics speak for themselves:

Image showing CodeDay Achievement Statistics

The children have a lot of fun while learning lots at the same time. They get to design their project and put it into ‘production’. During this process, they work on a team and are supported by mentors who are professional developers ‘in real life’. What they achieve in such a short space of time is truly wonderful and you can find out more about some of the completed projects in this blog, What happened at virtual CodeDay Winter 2021? by Tyler Menezes, the Executive Director and Board Member of CodeDay.

Our CodeDay Big Data Challenge

One of the events provided at CodeDay is the Big Data Challenge, which runs for 60-90 minutes during the 24 hour CodeDay event,  bringing young coders together in teams to solve big data problems.

Students who joined our challenge, were supported by our LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group colleagues, Bahareh Fardanian, Technology Evangelist and Dan Camper, Senior Architect. It’s not just about what happens on the day, the students like to prepare a little in advance. Bahar and Dan provided all the learning materials, code and the challenge itself.

                     Photo of Bahareh Fardanian             Photo of Dan Camper   

                                          Bahareh Fardanian                                                                       Dan Camper
                                     Technology Evangelist                                                                 Senior Architect
                             LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group                                       LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group

Our challenge involved becoming familiar with ECL and getting hands on practise using it. The aim is to solve a range of questions of varying levels of difficulty. The processes involved introduce them to the need to ‘understand your data’ and work with it effectively to get the answers required.

Before the day, they can prepare by learning more about HPCC Systems and ECL using a number of resources such as: 

An HPCC Systems cluster is provided and loaded ready with the movie dataset to be used. Some ECL code snippets are also supplied to provide the ability to:

  • See the layout of the dataset and look at the field names
  • View the movie data

Students access the cluster using a workspace in our CloudIDE (login required and video guide provided) and some guidelines are provided helping then to work through the challenge questions, like these:

  • How many rows are in the dataset?
  • How many movies have been directed by Alan Taylor?
  • How many movies had a budget of 0?
  • What is the average runtime?
  • Calculate the average popularity per artist for the year 2015
  • View the number of movies created per year

Hints from the mentors are also available in case they need a little help. While the challenge helps them to learn about the basics of big data query creation, there may also be time to move on to some of the more challenging insights as well as finding a few others of specific interest just for fun.

It was a busy day working with many groups of highly motivated young coders. In total, we had 65 teams participate in our big data challenge with around 390 children taking part. This chart shows our top scoring teams who were sent trophies to mark their achievements:

Chart showing our top scoring CodeDay Big Data Challenge Teams

It was an amazing day and we very much enjoyed taking part in another hugely successful CodeDay event.

CodeDay and HPCC Systems Interns in 2021

We have received number of internship enquiries from CodeDay participants in 2021 and it is great to be able to announce that for the second year running, CodeDay students will be joining the HPCC Systems intern program. 

Alexander Parra
Bachelor of Computer Science and Chicano Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Alexander Parra has been involved with CodeDay for around 4 years. Having started as a participant he is now a volunteer who helps manage the regional CodeDay event in Los Angeles. He recently co-presented a poster at the SIGCSE Technical Symposium 2021 about Closing The Gap Between Classrooms and Industry With Open-Source Internships. While representatives from CodeDay have submitted posters for review to this event in the past, it is the first time a poster has been accepted. So our congratulations go to Alex, his co presenter, Mingjie Jiang and the CodeDay team.

During his 2021 internship with HPCC Systems, Alex will be working on a machine learning related project which involves implementing a Predictive Model Markup Language (PMML) Processor. 

Eleanor Carl
Bachelor of Software Engineering
Green River College, WA

Eleanor Carl took part in CodeDay Labs in 2020 with a friend, creating a Bear Stories game using Python. The game involves starting out as a lonely bear in the woods meeting different animals and controlling the story based on choosing from a selection of possible responses. Ellie had been learning and using React and C# during her studies and via our involvement with CodeDay Labs, found about our Covid-19 Tracker. She began working with our LexisNexis Risk Solutions Colleagues, Arjuna Chala (Senior Director Operations) and Lili Xu (Software Engineer III) and made a valuable contribution to the state and county maps for the USA.

Ellie’s 2021 intern project involves returning to work on our Covid-19 Tracker, to extend the capabilities of the global map feature to include features relating to travel risks.

Jefferson Mao
Lambert High School, GA

Jefferson Mao joins the HPCC Systems Intern Program for the second year running. Jefferson learned about our program having taken part in a number of CodeDay events over the previous couple of years. In 2020, Jeff worked with our LexisNexis Risk Solutions Groups colleagues, Xiaoming Wang (Senior Consulting Software Engineer) and Godson Fortil (Software Engineer I) on a cloud related project, contributing to our ongoing development project focusing on providing a Cloud Native version of the HPCC Systems Platform.

Jeff’s 2021 intern project involves using one of our Machine Learning bundles to detect toxic language on web pages, in particular social media platforms. Alongside this work, he will be testing the deployment of  HPCC Systems clusters using Azure AKS with GitOps, which facilitates the management of operation workflows through central versioning control.

More information about our CodeDay interns is coming soon in a separate blog.

Virtual CodeDay Spring 2021

The next CodeDay event is scheduled for June 11th – 13th 2021. LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group and HPCC Systems will be sponsoring this event and providing another Big Data Challenge. Registration is free and available now