2021 Virginia Datathon Recap

Lessons learned and takeaways from the 2021 VA Datathon. Plus a Shiny app.

EE https://www.ericekholm.com/


This past Thursday and Friday, a couple of friends (Morgan DeBusk-Lane and Mike Broda) and I had the opportunity to participate in the 2021 Virtual Virginia Datathon. This is an annual hackathon that I’ve participated in for the past few years in which Virginia’s state agencies curate a bunch of datasets relating to a particular theme and ask participating teams to develop some sort of solution. Which I imagine is how hackathons typically work, but I haven’t participated in any others.

Anyway, the theme for this year’s datathon was “Addressing Hunger with Bits and Bytes,” and most of the data had to do with food insecurity, SNAP participation, free and reduced school meals, and the like. We focused in on one dataset provided – sites participating in the CACFP afterschool meals program. From this dataset, we created a Shiny app that allows users to enter their address and identify the closest site (in Virginia) participating in the afterschool meals program. Although we’ve un-deployed our app, you can find the Github repo with all of the code (and a lightly cleaned dataset) here.

Lessons Learned

One thing I appreciated about our approach to this year’s datathon is that it gave me the opportunity to practice with some skills/tools I’ve used before but certainly wouldn’t consider myself super proficient in. More specifically, I got to practice a bit with Shiny and with working with geographical data. Some things I learned/took away are:

Overall, I really enjoyed participating in the VA datathon this year because I felt like I got to expand my toolkit a little bit and work with tools that I don’t always use as part of my day job.


For attribution, please cite this work as

EE (2021, Oct. 13). Eric Ekholm: 2021 Virginia Datathon Recap. Retrieved from https://www.ericekholm.com/posts/2021-10-13-2021-virginia-datathon-recap/

BibTeX citation

  author = {EE, },
  title = {Eric Ekholm: 2021 Virginia Datathon Recap},
  url = {https://www.ericekholm.com/posts/2021-10-13-2021-virginia-datathon-recap/},
  year = {2021}