Data Analytics team student workers help optimize university use of physical space

Over the past year, OCIO’s Data Analytics team has been tackling difficulties associated with one of the most sought after resources at Ohio State – physical space. Classrooms, meeting rooms and event spaces are plentiful, yet it can be difficult to find open spaces that will suit particular needs at a specific time.

Ohio State has recently added a Data Analytics Bachelor of Science program, one of the first of its kind in the nation. Two students from the Data Analytics program are helping us explore how we can optimize the space we have. Not only did the Data Analytics students help us reach our goals, but they also gained valuable professional experience to supplement their class work.

 “Data analysis is a lot like art,” says Kalman Roemer a senior in Mathematics & Data Analytics. “You can't start with a finished product, you need to build a base and continually add layers of detail until you have something you are proud of. Often you find unexpected inspiration along the way that influences the end result in a way you did not initially anticipate.”

If it always seems difficult to find space, does that mean we need to build more buildings? Or is there a room available in a building across the oval? Or is space misallocated – for example is a 20-student class using a 60-student space? Does the available space have the necessary technology?

 “Data analytics is important for space optimization because it results in information that is objective,” says Cornell Blake, a Data Analytics major. “One person might say they always see that a specific room is empty, while another might be meeting there twice a day and find it too busy. Bringing in the data lets us seek the truth in the middle, where we can make objective observations and the right decisions. Incredible amounts of knowledge can be gained from data that is already being recorded, and the next step is to ask the right questions.”

As the project continues to move forward, we will work to build dashboards for overall space utilization, peak usage time(s) and population density scores. Mount Hall is the first “wireless” building on campus, so it offered us an ideal pilot environment. In Mount Hall, it was found that traffic routed through wireless access points also gave insight into underutilized spaces.

For the students, the project was a valuable, professional experience that helped them learn and develop skills that are essential as a data analyst. Many of the skills expected in a data analyst can’t be easily mastered in a classroom. Because the deliverables of the project were the only rigid guideline, it strengthened students’ ability to make decisions on where to take the project and helped them learn to make judgement calls on what would be the best way to meet its objectives.

“The work I did with OCIO directly impacted my ability to land full time offers, and for that reason I am extremely grateful of the opportunity I had to work here,” says Roemer, who graduates in May. “I had to be able to adapt, learn new skills and cater to different stakeholders, which is more similar to my future consulting position than it is to a job where you have a set role that you fill day to day. Above all I am no longer scared of a challenge. I am confident that no matter what I am asked to do in my career I can use my analytical skills to come up with a viable solution.”