When Computing Equals Social Good

Which buildings are at greatest risk of fire? Where are trees needed most? How can wait times be reduced at a local hotline? What does wifi use tell us about mobility?


College of Computing students helped three community services and Georgia Tech mine their data to answer these questions and solve challenges during the 2nd annual “Data Science for Social Good” (DSSG) summer internship program. Operating under the motto “engineers who speak human,” 14 undergraduate and graduate students – seven from the College – showed local organizations how advanced computational power and new analytic methods can help them make better decisions.


Although data analytics is increasingly used within for-profit corporations, few government entities and non-profits have the financial capabilities to do it.


“A lot of groups collect data but they may not have people who can make it work for them the way it should,” says Bistra Dilkina, professor in the School of Computational Science and Engineering and co-director of DSSG ’15. “Often they are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do with it. We’re showing data can work to their advantage.”


“This shows students why data science is important,” she adds.


The program is modeled after Chicago’s Data Science for Social Good program, which was started in 2013 by The University of Chicago and Eric and Wendy Schmidt Foundation. It was brought to Atlanta by Professor Ellen Zegura (CS) last year. Dilkina and Assistant Professor Chris Le Dantec (LMC) served as mentors in 2014 and were so inspired by the outcomes that they signed up to lead it this year. More than 100 students applied for the 10-week paid internship and 14 were selected. Oracle and Georgia Tech sponsor the internships.




New graduate Sanat Moningi (CS/DM ’15) completed the internship before he relocates to Northern California for his career. He says he wants to continue doing “data science for social good” in his new community.


Students presented their completed work Thursday, July 8 at Ponce City Market.

Participating in 2015 were:


For Atlanta Fire Department

  • Wenwen Zhang (PhD, CSE and City and Regional Planning)
  • Michael Madaio (DM ’15)
  • Oliver Haimson, PhD student from UC Irvine
  • Xiang Chen, PhD student from Emory
  • Mentors: Dilkina with Professor Polo Chau (CSE)


For Atlanta Tree Conservation Commission and Trees Atlanta

  • Sanat Moningi (CS/DM ’15)
  • Caroline Foster (DM ’15, Masters HCI)
  • Jordan Belknap (Masters CS)
  • Mentors: Dilkina with Tony Giarrusso, senior research scientist at Center for Geographic Information Systems


For Campus Wifi Georgia Tech

  • Stevie Chancellor (HCC)
  • Peter Joseph Polack  (CM)
  • Noora Khorsandzadeh (CS)
  • Rahul (PhD at University of Buffalo)
  • Mentors: Senior Research Scientist Russ Clark (CS) with Matt Sanders, director of research operations at IPaT


For United Way

  • Richard Huckaby (CS)
  • Hamid Mohammadi (MS Statistics)
  • Fatheia Ahmeda (BS Applied Math)
  • Mentor: Le Dantec (LMC)


Read more:

News from Georgia Tech

Data Science Interns Develop App for Planting Trees

It Takes a Forest

2015 Projects Explained