2016 Hudson Data Jam Competition

Making data "sing" through creative expression

Now in its third year, the Hudson Data Jam Competition challenges students to creatively tell stories for a general audience using data from the Hudson River watershed.

Registration for 2016 is closed.

Rules & Regulations

Rules & Regulations

Your challenge

Present for a general audience the most creative and compelling data-based story describing a trend or comparison using Hudson River watershed data 

You can create a graphic, story, play, song, or other product—your imagination is the limit! Just make sure your creation describes trends in the data OR uses data to make comparisons between sites or years. While you can use any scientific data collected in the Hudson River watershed, we have put together a number of data sets for you and encourage you to use these.

Parts of the Project


Each project will consist of two main parts:

  • Creative Data Interpretation
  • Written Report

Creative Data Interpretation

This is the heart of your project—where you use your creativity to describe an interesting trend you find OR make a comparison of similarities or differences between sites or years using data from the Hudson River.

How can you present ecological data about the Hudson River and/or its watershed to explain the major conclusions to a non-scientist audience?

The creative piece should clearly explain the data to someone without the scientific knowledge to interpret datasets or graphs on their own. Skits, videos, original songs, puppet shows, poems, photographs, exhibits, sculptures, and interactive displays are encouraged. Presentations that involve live performances must be submitted as electronic audio or video files (YouTube videos preferred). Please keep audio and visual records to 5 minutes or less.

Written Report

Regardless of what medium you use for the creative aspect of your project, you will need to produce a report that summarizes your project for the judges and others to review.

The report must include the following components:

  1. Title
  2. Name(s), grade(s), and school name(s) of all students who participated in the project.
  3. Introduction to the project (1 paragraph): Start your report by giving background information on the issue you studied, the scientific question you investigated, and a brief claim about what the dataset showed. Give an overview of the project but do not go into specific detail in your introduction.
  4. Description of the dataset(s) used and metadata (1 paragraph): State that the data are from the Hudson River watershed. If given, specify the exact location(s) (town, city, boat launch, etc.). Include as much information as possible about how the data were collected, year(s) when they were collected, researchers involved in the project, the data source, and any other relevant information.
  5. Representations: You will need to create at least one graph, chart, and/or table of the data using Excel or any other graphing program. Be sure to label your axes. If you selected a large dataset, your representation only needs to include the relevant variables.
  6. Data Trends or Comparisons (2-5 sentences): Describe the trend(s) or comparison(s) in the dataset(s) you used for your project. Examples:
    • The population increased over time with a sharp decrease in 1995;
    • The precipitation was highly variable over time.
    • If you used two datasets for a comparison, how were the data similar? How were they different?
  7. Explanation (Data Interpretation) (1-3 paragraphs): Use reasoning and what you know about the topic to explain the trend(s) or comparison(s) you discovered. Why is it interesting and important? Are your results expected or surprising? What basic processes might be at work causing what you discovered?
  8. New questions & hypotheses (1 paragraph): Remember -- for your creative piece, your job is just to describe the data. However, when you look at data closely, you'll inevitably start asking more questions.  'Why did the numbers go down in 2003?' Or, 'What's happening in Beacon to make the site so different from others?'  The report is your place to ask 'Why?' and 'What's up with that?'  Then brainstorm some hypotheses.  Hypotheses are what your brain comes up with when you ask that 'Why?' question.  You start thinking 'Maybe...'  That 'maybe' is your hypothesis. Be sure to give at least two new ideas (hypotheses and/or questions) about future scientific research that could be done on this topic.
  9. Written explanation of creative methods (1-5 sentences): Include your reasoning for why you chose this creative method of communication. For example, "we believe that the best way to help a general audience relate to and understand our findings is to create a fun, engaging, and educational video based on a popular novel or movie."
  10. Reflection on Data Jam experience (1-5 sentences): Let us know what you thought about your Data Jam process. For instance, was it challenging or surprisingly easy? What did you learn from Data Jam? How would you change Data Jam if you had the chance? Do you think there is a way to share your project with an audience outside of Data Jam? 
  11. Reference list: include a reference list of all of the resources used (e.g., data source, graph or table source, and anything used to explain the data interpretation). Any standard citation form is permissible (APA, MLA, etc.), but the same form should be used for all citations for a given project entry.

The report and all associated materials for your project must be submitted electronically by 11:59pm EST on May 27, 2016. If you choose to present your project at the Data Jam event, we ask that you prepare a tri-fold poster board (no larger than 36" tall by 48" wide) neatly displaying the components from your report. This poster and any physical materials, electronic media (videos, songs, etc), and other necessary equipment to display your project (laptops, power cords, etc) should be brought to Marist College’s Student Center on Saturday, June 18, 2016 between 1:00-2:00 p.m. Table space and a limited number of extension cords will be provided.

The Data Jam event will begin promptly at 2:00 p.m on Saturday, June 18.




The Hudson Data Jam Competition is open to all current middle and high school students (grades 6-12) attending school in the United States.  Only eligible participants may submit projects and receive prizes.

Previous Entrants

Previous entrants are encouraged to compete again in the Hudson Data Jam Competition, as long as they meet the above student eligibility requirements. Students are welcome to use the same dataset(s) they used in previous years, however, they must create a new project for the competition. Previously entered projects are ineligible.

Team Advisors

Participation in the Hudson Data Jam Competition requires coordination by a responsible adult who agrees to facilitate and validate student participation. Middle and high school (grades 6-12) teachers of all subject areas are encouraged to get their students involved. Adult advisors can be teachers, parents, guardians, or other mentors.


All projects for the Hudson Data Jam Competition are entered by teams. There are two types of teams that may enter: small teams (consisting of one to six students) or class teams (consisting of entire classes or grade levels).

Small Teams (1-6 Students)

Multiple project entries may be submitted from the same class and even the same teacher or adult advisor. This means that a single class may be divided into several groups, with each group submitting their own project entry. However, each student may only be part of a single team, and each team may only submit one project entry.

Multi-grade teams will be accepted and will be categorized according to the grade of the highest-level student. This means that if one team consists of three 7th grade students and one 9th grade student, the team will be categorized as a “high school” entry.

Prizes will be awarded to a winning project, so it must be split between team members if a team consists of more than one student.

Class Teams

Teachers who wish to compete in the Hudson Data Jam Competition with a whole class or grade level can enter their students as a class team. This means that the entire class/grade will submit one project for the competition.

In order to streamline the process for entering class teams, we will not require the team advisor to submit parental consent forms for each participating student. However, if the creative data display shows a student's likeness, we will not be able to share any videos/photos of their project unless all members of the class have submitted consent forms.

Prizes will be awarded to a winning project, and, in the case of class teams, will be given to the students' school and/or designated class funds.

Registration Period

Registration for the Hudson Data Jam Competition is required. All registrations must be completed no later than May 6, 2016. Team information that is not completed during the online registration must be submitted no later than May 27, 2016 using the team information sheet.

Acceptable Data

We have compiled Hudson River watershed data from a variety of sources for your use. This data will is posted on the Data Sets section of the Data Jam website. You are welcome to use additional data from other sources, but it must be data collected in the Hudson River watershed and allow assessment of either a trend through time or across a spatial range or a comparison between times or sites. Fabrication of data will result in elimination from the Hudson Data Jam Competition.

Project Entry Period

Project entries for the Hudson Data Jam Competition must be submitted online no later than 11:59pm EST on May 27, 2016.


Merit Prizes

Middle School Competition
1st Place - $500
2nd Place - $300
3rd Place - $100

High School Competition
1st Place - $500
2nd Place - $300
3rd Place - $100

People’s Choice Award

Middle School Competition - $100

High School Competition - $100

Door Prize



The Hudson Data Jam emphasizes creativity in presenting data, which begins with the ability to understand and interpret data. These skills—understanding, interpreting, and presenting data—are essential in today’s world, where all sorts of misleading “facts” are only a click away, and our ability to collect data outpaces our ability to make it understandable for a public audience. Click here to download the judging rubric.

Scientific merit – 50%

    • Does the project explain necessary background information needed to understand the topic?
    • Are the data and metadata introduced thoroughly and clearly?
    • Does the project clearly describe a trend or make a comparison?
    • Is the description of the trend or comparison valid and accurate?
    • How complex is the story told? Was a single data set used or multiple? 
    • Did the student use reasoning to explain the trend or comparison?
    • Are there at least two new ideas about future scientific research?
    • Does the report include a reference list with citations for all of the resources used in the project?

Creativity – 40%

    • How creative and original is the project idea?
    • How successfully and accurately does the project communicate the data to a non-scientist audience?
    • Was there a clear explanation for the use of this creative method of communication?
    • How skillfully and effectively were the materials used in creating the project?
Overall Content & Organization –  10%
    • Is the report presented neatly and well organized?
    • Does the report contain all necessary components?
    • Is the report free from obvious errors and spelling mistakes?
NEW THIS YEAR: Bonus Points
  • Extra points will be awarded to projects that incorporate multiple data sets. The number of points awarded will be dependent on how skillfully the additional data sets are used.
  • Overall scores will be scaled based on the difficulty of the dataset used. Datasets range from Level 1 (easy) to Level 4 (very challenging). Level 4 projects will be eligible to earn the highest scaling bonus.

People's Choice Award

Award will be chosen by the attendees at the 2016 Data Jam Expo and open to projects from any academic level. Bringing extra family and friends in hopes that they’ll vote for you is encouraged; bribing your little brother to do so is not.

**Note: The People’s Choice Award will only be available to projects brought and presented at the Data Jam Expo on June 18, 2016.

Door Prize



In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined based on a secondary, comparative round of judging among the tied projects.

Winner Notifications

Winners for the merit prizes, People’s Choice Award, and door prize will be announced at the Data Jam Expo on June 18, 2016 at Marist College from 2:00pm-4:00pm. Prizes will be distributed following winner announcements. Merit prize project winners who are not in attendance at the Data Jam Expo will be contacted via their team advisor’s provided e-mail address within 72 hours following the event to notify them of their team’s winnings.

Student Privacy

Student privacy is important to us. All adult team advisors will receive parental/guardian consent forms for permission of student participation and the release of limited personally identifiable student information (i.e., student name, grade level and gender, school name, hometown, photographs, video or audio files of the student, and project entry). These consent forms should be completed and signed for each participating student and returned to the student's team advisor. Should a participant lose track of their consent form, the form can be downloaded and printed from here.

Team advisors are asked to handle the distribution and collection of parental/guardian consent forms for their student participants. To ensure receipt of materials, please submit all team members’ parental/guardian consent forms together. Completed forms must be received by the Cary Institute no later than May 27, 2016.  These forms may be scanned or photographed and e-mailed to caryeducation@caryinstitute.org or mailed to the following address:

Shelly Forster
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
P.O. Box AB
Millbrook, NY 12545

Publicity & Rights

By entering a project into the Hudson Data Jam Competition, the project creator(s), parent(s)/guardian(s), and the team advisor grant to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies world-wide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use all materials submitted by the student teams into the Hudson Data Jam Competition for publicity purposes.

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies may post information about the Hudson Data Jam Competition in the Cary newsletter, on the Cary website, in the Cary annual report, in the local newspapers, and on the Cary and Hudson Data Jam Competition Facebook pages. Project entries may be published without compensation through any or all of the above sources in whole or in part. Submitting a project entry does not guarantee it will be publicized. We will not publicize any student information without prior parental/guardian consent.


Project entries cannot include plagiarized work. Plagiarism is considered the deliberate copying of someone else’s thoughts, ideas, expressions, words, artistic expressions, or scientific work without formally acknowledging its source. Plagiarism includes project entries that are comprised substantially of someone else’s work, copying  words or ideas from someone else without giving credit, the failure to put quotation marks around unmodified content that was copied from an outside source, and the use of photos, graphs, charts, or other images without acknowledging their source. Project entries that include plagiarized content will be eliminated from the competition. We recommend teams working together to help each other avoid plagiarism. The best way to ensure your work is original is to be creative!

This competition requires students to use information that is not their own, and thus merits increased diligence to proper source acknowledgement. Students will use data (scientific work) that has been collected by a group of researchers. Students are also welcome to use any of the graphs or images provided on the “Data Sets” portal/webpage in their project entries. In order to avoid plagiarism, students should be sure to properly cite all sources of information for content that isn’t their own original work.  This includes noting the data source and the sources of any images copied or modified. Any standard citation form is permissible (APA, MLA, etc.)


All project entries must have a complete reference list of all resources used.  Any standard citation form is permissible (APA, MLA, etc.), but the same form should be used for all citations for a given project entry.

Additional Disclaimers

  1. It is the responsibility of each participant and team advisor to obtain and read these rules and regulations for the Hudson Data Jam Competition.
  2. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies will not be responsible for any claims, costs, liabilities, damages, expenses, or losses arising from 1) The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies’ use of project entries, 2) the participants’ involvement in the competition, 3) technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to, computer viruses or equipment malfunctions, 4) travel to and from the teacher workshops, Data Jam Expo, and other related activities, 5) the use of prizes, and 6) any events outside the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies’ reasonable control.
  3. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies reserves the right to reject any project entry for any reason and at any time, at its own discretion.
  4. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies may refuse to award a prize if a winning participant does not follow proper registration and project entry procedures, or these rules and regulations.
  5. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is not responsible for any technical failures that may affect participation in the Hudson Data Jam Competition.



Any questions regarding the Hudson Data Jam Competition should be directed to caryeducation@caryinstitute.org.

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