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In this project, students use a real-world, complex database and experience firsthand the consequences of inadequate data modeling. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created the database as part of a multimillion dollar data collection effort undertaken in order to set limits on air pollutants from electric power plants. First, students explore the database to identify design limitations from the perspective of a data analyst with a specific goal. Second, students create a new database design which overcomes identified problems. Through this case study, students develop the skill to infer usage implications by studying the design of an existing database. This is important since developers often inherit databases designed by others. Students also learn how to prepare data stored in a relational database for a data analysis project. By experiencing the consequences of an inadequate design from a user perspective, students can better appreciate the importance of relational database design principles and become more committed to using them.

Original Citation

Donalds, K. & Liu, X. (2014). Cleaning Data Helps Clean the Air. Information Systems Education Journal, 12(5), 4-15.