Desert Data Jam




The Desert Data Jam challenges middle school students to find interesting ways to present scientific data to non-scientist audiences.

Students use ecological data collected in or near Las Cruces to create a project that presents one dataset in a non-traditional way. We encourage students to get creative and find inspiration in their own interests.


More than 450 students participated in Desert Data Jam in the 2018 school year, and many began to hone their data skills and craft their creative projects as early as September. We are incredibly proud of all students that persevered through many months of wrestling with the data and finding a way, true to their interests, to retell the data creatively. The Desert Data Jam competition was the culmination of their hard work, and we are so grateful to everybody that supported them in this endeavor.


Dr. Kris Havstad addresses students and parents at the Desert Data Jam open house and award ceremony.

In 2018, 49 projects were in the final competition. Thanks to our generous volunteers, all projects were scored 5 times. We gave 12 honorable mentions and three top prizes.



To learn more about the Desert Data Jam and other Data Jams across the country, check out some of the publications on the topic:


"Data Jams" on the LTER Network


"DATA JAMS: Promoting Data Literacy and Science Engagement While Encouraging Creativity" in The Science Teacher


"Desert Data Jam" on our blog


  Click the links below to access the documents:   Teacher Guidebook   Parent Note   Judging Rubric   Presentation Board Requirements  

Important Dates

April 10, 2020 – Registration forms due (names of students and projects submitted by teachers).  

April 21, 2020 – Projects and presentation boards are due between 3:00 and 7:00 pm. Bring them to Wooton Hall (corner of Knox St. and Frenger St. on the New Mexico State University campus).  

April 23, 2020 – Public reception and awards ceremony will be held in the NMSU Wooton Hall conference room. All projects must be picked up at the end of the ceremony.

2018 Winners




  • Leaf It to the Rain by Emma Koenig and Colette Bailey, Sierra Middle School


  • I Can’t Beleaf You by Emily Haines and Melissa Gonzales, Picacho Middle School


  • Caught in the Spotlight by Aubri Kehoe and Gianna Villegas, Zia Middle School


  • Who Has Allergies? by Alena Sheen, Sierra Middle School


  • Don’t Be a Bummer Summer by Ezri Mijarez, Raeann Wilson, and Julia Zamora, Vista Middle School


  • Lessening of the Leaves by Erik Wiebe, Picacho Middle School


  • Say Cheese by Bobby Monsivaiz and Isaac Pineda, Sierra Middle School


  • Keep an Eye on Dust Pollution by Pierce Leachman, Zia Middle School


  • Soil Down Costa Rica by Lilly Li, Sierra Middle School


  • Dust Emissions by Aaron Lara and Faidh Naife, Camino Real Middle School


  • The Decomposers are Piste, Alaska by Larissa Zhou, Sierra Middle School


  • Litter-ally Decomposition by Anna Leadbetter and Anthony Carrasco, Aldo Leopold Charter School