Insights Blog

STATWARS: developing the next generation of data leaders

Exasol and STATWARS

Exasol has always championed STEM skills and data literacy for young people. That’s why we’re thrilled to be supporting Primary Engineer, the UK based company that’s behind the STATWARS Competition®, who work with schools and teachers to engage children in engineering from a young age.

Loading...Data science plays a key role in professional life. But it’s not being highlighted enough within education, leading to a skills gap, says Susan Scurlock, founder and CEO of Primary Engineer.

“Data is something everybody will need as they progress towards their chosen career,” says Susan. “One of the most important things for children and young people is using data for better decision making, so they can be empowered to argue and prove their points of view.”

Despite this, Exasol research suggests that only 43% of 16-21-year-olds consider themselves to be data literate. STATWARS® aims to tackle this by embedding data into the heart of educational life with exciting competitions that blend creativity with an understanding of why data matters.

The STATWARS method

The competition delivers maths, data handling and visualization skills to pupils, challenging them to solve problems with data-backed insights. These challenges require teamwork, helping to develop communication and leadership skills, in addition to empathy, resilience and critical thinking.

STATWARS® is free to access for all primary and secondary schools, providing data projects that are directly applicable to STEM disciplines, but also to qualitative subjects, such as English, given the need to communicate findings and persuade audiences of important insights. Free teaching resources are provided with lesson plans, activity sheets and video tutorials. Pupils also learn from the best, with live interviews and skills sessions being delivered by industry specialists from a range of high-profile organizations.

Climate and the media

“Discussions around climate change are front and centre,” says Chris Rochester, UK Director of Primary Engineer. “And while it’s important for young people to demand change, it’s only by using data that they’ll identify how they can take action – and that’s empowering.”

That’s why for 2021-2022, the Climate Change Challenge is one of the two options available for students. The other is the Film & TV Project. “Data is an important part of how we get to net zero, and lots of new jobs are going to come up which will involve working with it,” says Chris. “That’s a key part of preparing professionals with the green skills that’ll help the future of our economy and environment.” 

Through the STATWARS® Climate Change Challenge, students can grapple with data sets and assess their ideas on how to protect the environment. Students can work in groups at school, or alone at home on projects that’ll develop numeracy and data literacy by challenging them to grapple with relevant data in order to gain important insights. The competition also develops creativity, with students being required to present their ideas via data infographics, pitches, and other means to communicate the reasoning behind their findings.

With the STATWARS® Film & TV Project, students will draw on their own experiences with the media and assess data on film and TV shows to develop ideas for a new on-screen sensation. Chris says it also gives children insight into how the media works:

“Children love going to the cinema and watching TV shows, but those decisions on what they watch are based on years’ worth of data on what audiences want.”

STATWARS: Forging alliances for a positive impact

STATWARS® is supported by a range of influential organizations dedicated to enhancing the learning experience of pupils. This includes Warner Media, who’ve recognized the important role STATWARS® plays in raising awareness on the value of data within entertainment. Other partners such as Network Rail also support STATWARS® given the importance of data in driving transport operations whilst assisting with sustainability and the move toward net-zero. Tech organizations like Vodafone and Facebook have long recognized the challenges posed by the STEM skills gap and are also working with STATWARS® to intervene at an early stage so pupils realize the potential of data careers.

Exasol is a national funding partner of STATWARS®, and we’re proud to collaborate with Susan and Chris in expanding the role of data within education, “We’re always seeking to develop STATWARS alongside teachers and our partners, and Exasol have been really helpful in working with us to develop our materials so teachers have what they need in the classroom.”

Looking forward

It’s crucial that schools produce a new generation of professionals who can change our world for the better through data. We think STATWARS® is a brilliant initiative that deserves to impart valuable STEM and science skills to pupils on an international level, and with pressing issues like climate change affecting the entire globe, it’s important that we engage young pupils at an early stage to make data interesting and relevant so they can make a change.