A New Year of SUDS!

SUDS is thrilled to be back and starting a new semester!

Do you have data science skills and want to use those to have a real-world impact? Do you want to learn data science skills by working on a team with other students? Do you love public policy and want to understand the world better with data?

Come to one of our two kickoff General Body Meetings next Thursday (9/13) to hear about what we have planned for this semester and what we’ve been up to the last few months!

Where and when: Thursday, 9/13, 12-1:20 Hamburg 1004 and 6-7:20 Hamburg 2003. Pizza likely.

Check out the Getting Involved page to sign up for our mailing list and Slack team, and take a look at the Projects page to see the exciting new data projects we’re planning for the semester!


Hope to see you all next Thursday!


Students Using Data for Social Good (SUDS) is a student group that brings together the vast (and growing) array of disciplines that contribute to the conversation of how cities are adapting new methods of “big data” collection and analysis to improve their service delivery, from providing water and fire protection to repairing infrastructure. Additionally, the democratization of data and cities’ new “open data” policies are revolutionizing the way citizens interact with their cities, including the emergence of a burgeoning “civic hacking” scene where average citizens use this newly-available open data to create tools, visualizations, and awareness to help improve the lives of other citizens.


Eileen Patten presenting at the Census event


Since its founding in August 2015, SUDS has grown to over 100 members representing 5 different colleges and 20 different programs across Carnegie Mellon University. From urban design to electrical engineering, policy to philosophy, our students work in diverse teams tackling some of Pittsburgh’s most pressing issues, including police accountability, fire safety, and combined sewer overflows.

Projects Update!

Thank you to everyone who showed up to our Project Interest Meeting on Tuesday! We’re so excited to collaborate with all of you this semester.

We’re looking for new board members!

If you’re interested in supporting the growth of SUDS, come out to our Leadership Interest Mixer on March 1st! We’re looking for leaders in multiple positions. Come out to the mixer to chat with current board members. If you’re interested in any leadership position, please email us at suds-cmu@andrew.cmu.edu.

Spring into two new projects! 

For everyone interested in getting involved with SUDS, fill out this form to sign up:

  1. Analyzing environmental health impact data, with the Environmental Health Project
    • Building a data analysis pipeline to run reproducible analyses joining environmental data (air pollution, soil quality, etc) and health data for Southwest PA.
    • Skills preferred: Python, R, Javascript, SQL (or related skills)
    • Looking for a team lead!
  1.  Analyzing ‘digital redlining’ in Pittsburgh, with the Department of Innovation and Performance
    • Designing and developing a platform to help citizens and Pittsburgh government assess the extent of unfairly reduced internet speeds around the city.
    • Skills preferred: Javascript, web development, Python, GIS (or related skills)
    • Looking for a team lead!

Sign up for our mailing list for updates, job listings, and other great events!

Lastly, check out these other civic data events going on in and around Pittsburgh, and sign up for the WPRDC mailing list to stay up-to-date on these and other events:


A New Semester with SUDS!

Welcome back for another great semester with SUDS! We had a great fall semester, and want to finish off the year strong with more data projects, workshops, and speakers. If you’re new to SUDS and want to meet other data enthusiasts who are passionate about doing good with data, please come to our General Body Meeting on Wednesday, January 31st in Hamburg Hall Room 1206 at 6pm (Click to RSVP!)

With a great semester ahead of us, we want to share our plans for the spring (including new projects!), but we also want to celebrate what we accomplished in the fall. In that spirit, please take the time to read the reflection Chris Worley, our outgoing Director, left for us as we look ahead to spring:

About SUDS

Students for Urban Data Systems (SUDS) partners with organizations in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County that are dedicated to social good, and we lend our data skills to their mission. In sum, we connect our members with opportunities to do good with data.

We value enthusiasm and effort before skill set. Data projects are about helping members develop their skills in data analysis, visualization, machine learning, and project management. We bring students from across the seven colleges at CMU together.

One of the most important parts of the SUDS experience is mentorship. Each Data Project team has experienced members and leaders that work to build skills of other members.

Data Projects

The most exciting thing about SUDS is that it brings together community organizations that have data needs and match them with a team of students who are interested in helping out. Last Fall, we began three new Data Projects:

  1. Remake Learning – Develop an interactive map of educational organizations in the Pittsburgh region and the populations they serve.
  2. Just Harvest – Understand fresh food access in Pittsburgh by examining transaction data from 300 local fresh food markets.
  3. Metro21 and Pittsburgh Fire Bureau – Improve and extend Fire Risk Models to guide fire risk reduction efforts, like property inspections and safety education. 

What’s Next

We look forward to what 2018 brings. SUDS members enjoy contributing to the Open Data and Civic Technology community in Pittsburgh, and have lined up new Data Projects for the spring.

In two short years, we have grown from the original group of five students to a network of 50+ regular members, with hundreds of students participating in our activities. Obviously, our founders tapped into something that excited students across the CMU community. Today, students from all academic disciplines and skill levels participate in SUDS projects and events.

We look forward to seeing you!


Data for Good Exchange, 2017

The Data for Good Exchange conference focused on applications of data science that benefit the public. This is strongly aligned with the mission of SUDS. Our objective for attending the conference was to learn more about how practitioners, academics, and others are using data analytics in creative ways to address public policy concerns.
Ada Tso, Ben Simmons, and Chris Worley at the Data for Good Exchange, 2017
Ada Tso, Ben Simmons, and Chris Worley at the Data for Good Exchange, 2017
The conference was attended by a cross-section of individuals in academic, government, the private sector, and nonprofits/NGOs. Most sessions were themed around a particular topic (ethics and fairness; novel data collection methods; public services; etc.) and presenters would discuss research they had done in the area or examples of implementation. Some of the most interesting talks we attended were on equity in 311 call reporting, creating a database of police killings, and patterns in civil asset forfeiture. There was also a poster session and reception at the end of the day.
Shouvik Mani presenting at Data for Good Exchange, 2017
Shouvik Mani presenting about the Intelligent Pothole Detection project at the Data for Good Exchange conference, 2017
 One of the highlights was getting to see Shouvik Mani, Umang Bhatt, and Edgar Xi of Carnegie Mellon talk about their Intelligent Pothole Detection project. Shouvik is currently serving as in a Assistant Director for Data Projects role with SUDS and will be the Director of SUDS beginning in January 2018.

Infographic Workshop: Thursday, October 5

Infographic Design Workshop with Jessica Bellamy

On Thursday, October 5, Jessica Bellamy will lead interested students in a workshop on Infographic Design. Jessica is an Infographic Designer and Adobe Creative Resident for 2017. With her guidance, we will explore and apply principles of conscious and responsible design to a real-world infographic project.


Jessica will cover the following topics:

  • Icon drafting
  • Infographic composition
  • Power dynamics in design
  • Data framing
  • Asset v. deficit mapping
  • Access to information
  • Grassroots design strategies
Chris Worley, Jessica Bellamy, and Ali Siegel after the Infographic Workshop
Chris Worley, Jessica Bellamy, and Ali Siegel at the Infographic Workshop

Infographics are easily digestible visualizations of complex data. As our access to larger volumes of data increases, our ability to communicate findings to policymakers, people with resources, and low-opportunity communities becomes more important.

If you’re interested, make sure you’re registered on EventBrite! The event will be on Thursday, October 5 from 12:00-1:15pm in Hamburg Hall, Room 2003.