During her time at the USDA, Joyce worked with the Governance Lab at New York University to design and deliver an immersive two-week-long Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math (STEAM)/Open Data Summer Camp for middle- and high-school students in the Washington, DC, area.
The goal was to help the students gain hands-on experience, so projects harnessed actual USDA-provided data sets, as well as original research, to focus on three major issues.
Student teams used open data to map the trees planted in the nation’s capital, and then to analyze the benefits of those trees in helping to prevent flood and storm damage, boosting energy savings through modernization of local temperatures and reducing pollution.
Teams looked at how community gardens impacted “food deserts” in local neighborhoods, as well as how they substantially reduced the distance food has to travel from farm to table—helping to reduce both pollution and the loss of food nutrient value in the process.
Teams focused on identifying what can easily be done in the home to prevent food-borne illness as well as on the policy approaches that are most effective in assuring the safe operation of restaurants and food trucks.
As Joyce explains, “I have consistently been a strong voice of support that encourages these students to develop an interest in working with data. My guiding principle has been simple: if such interest and excitement and confidence can be kindled, the odds go up that these students will make course and even career choices touching on data and agriculture.”
And she was right. Three of the students from the first camp were invited to the White House to present their findings and the Federal CTO attended the graduation of the 2016 camp. She’s also received calls about the success of the summer camp and the number of 2015 and 2016 participants who are now looking forward to majoring in data science and agriculture science in college. The program has been so successful it’s moving across the country to the University of California for the summer of 2017 and will be offered at both California Lutheran University and Tuskegee University in 2018.