Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Education for the Future

The Geospatial Education Technology Initiative (GetIT) partnership is providing Moodle based geospatial technology curriculum at no cost to participating school districts throughout America. The goal of the program is to get youth interested in careers in geospatial technology in order to help meet future needs for trained personnel for the geospatial intelligence workforce of tomorrow. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has been identified as one of the top ten high growth career fields by the U.S. Department of Labor. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has identified a serious shortage of skilled workers required to support our nation’s national defense needs. These organizations recognize the need to increase the number of youth with interest and knowledge in this STEM related field.

Schools throughout our nation are suffering from budget cuts, a lack of affordable training materials and teacher training opportunities that are needed to introduce geospatial technology curriculum into their school systems. Our program and the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 (in rural Central Pennsylvania), are developing a comprehensive curriculum program to meet these needs and is supplying this program to schools at no cost.

Our curriculum is designed to be easily modified to use local geospatial data, therefore it is more interesting to the students taking the courses. The GetIT program currently supports many schools with an interest in teaching their students geospatial technology by taking a three pronged approach to training youth in geospatial technologies. The National Science foundation promotes this approach to engage youth in STEM related careers through K-12 in-school programs, after-school programs, and summer programs.

Washington College also offers exciting and challenging summer camps in geospatial technology. The camp combines GIS with other disciplines such as chemistry, environmental science, and underwater robotics to apply the geospatial skills to other STEM related disciplines. Washington College also runs summer camps for teachers who want to use GetIT in their classroom. Our students make significant contributions to updating and editing the curriculum materials. Each student provides a unique ability that adds to improving and strengthening the curriculum. While some make sure that the materials have a finished appearance, others validate technological processes, create quizzes, or publish it in the Moodle environment. Their work is delivered directly to teachers in the field on a daily basis.

Megan Wise ‘10:
“I am finishing up quizzes for the Introduction to GIS section of the Moodle website. I have completed many quizzes and from these I am strengthening my teaching skills. As an elementary school intern it is important to learn what information needs to be assessed in a lesson. Completing quizzes for GIS helps me establish and enhance these skills by using them on a weekly basis.”

Samantha Bulkivish ’09:
A past intern of the GIS Lab, Samantha now works as a staff member. Among other projects, Sam teaches in a traditional classroom setting as a guest lecturer. She also teaches distance learning to adults from all over Maryland. They all have jobs ranging from working with NOAA and DNR to Easton Utilities. Taking Samantha’s Introduction to GIS class, the adult students hope to further or change their careers. Even though they can get frustrated easily, Samantha is able to divert the situation by walking them step by step through their problems. She is also involved in a three week Introduction to GIS class with Kent County public high school. The lab is also working with Easton, St. Mary’s, and Queen Anne’s county high schools. She believes Moodle is a good tool which makes learning GIS easier and will take the lab many places.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Getting Dirty in Idaho

GIS: A tool for Smart Land Management

In June of 2009 Ms. Daryl Swanstrom, a member of the Washington College Board of Visitor’s and Governors, invited Stewart Bruce, Josh Biringer ‘12, and Samantha Bulkilvish ‘09 out to her 44 acre ranch in Vasser, Idaho. On the ranch she raises beef cattle and chicken and hopes to, one day in the near future, get her ranch certified organic.

The team’s goal was to collect data that would help her better manage her growing ranch. The team spent the week using GPS to take waypoints, videotaping, and taking pictures from every corner of the ranch. Using GPS they mapped such things as the wells, springs, and other water features. They also took many videos of the ranch to document what they saw with plans to link the videos to the finished map. This way Ms. Swanstrom could show her Ranch to anyone in the world. They also used GPS to map the trails, roads, utility boxes, her house, and barns.

Upon her return to the GIS lab, Samantha was tasked with sifting through all the data collected. She spent hours labeling the videos and pictures so she would know which GPS points to hyperlink them to. She also digitized the streams layer, received from the Latah County, Idaho planning office to better fit the aerial imagery. Samantha also linked the forestry plan, given to her by Ms. Swanstrom, to the digitized forest stands. At the beginning of the Fall Semester she received additional help from Dalbir Kaur ’12 and Lisa Jones ’11. Dalbir started digitizing the land use within the Swanstrom Property but soon finished and moved on to the land use of Latah County. Lisa has stepped in to finish hyperlinking videos and pictures and to clean up the rest of the GPS points and other features added to the map. As of October, Ms. Swanstrom received a draft copy of her map which she can view in ArcReader. She plans to use her new mapping tool to come up with a strategic plan for the future development of her ranch.

Daryl Swanstrom & Samantha Bulkilvish ‘09

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pot Luck Projects

Otto Borden ‘13

A Walk in the Past: Following the Revolutionary
Foot Steps of American & British Soldiers

As many know, Maryland and Pennsylvania are full of historic battlefields and footpaths that American and British soldiers used during the Revolutionary War. Gettysburg is one of the most popular spots, but what about the others? What do they look like? How did the fields and paths appear to the soldiers hundreds of years ago? Professor Bruce and Otto Borden ‘13 set out to answer these questions with their 3D rendition of these historical sites. Their goal was to recreate the fields as they looked during the war and place 3D soldiers to move around the maps, in order to show the paths that they took.

This project involved the use of Google Earth to create this sequential tour of the movement of both American and British forces during the battle of Brandywine. The research involved finding websites for townships and counties that were involved in the battles. Otto used their historic sites to gather information about what happened in the battle and replay that information back in order in Google Earth. Historical maps were found on the internet to ensure that the placement of the troops was correct. This project was challenging, but rewarding, says Otto Borden.

Monday, November 9, 2009

GIS Close to Home

Kathy Gerhart ‘10

Kathy has completed the Chamber of Commerce street map and resource guide. A graduate summer intern made significant strides with the map this summer. The map highlights points of interest in the Kent County area. You can see an example of our work in the Chamber of Commerce Office in downtown Chestertown on the Corner of Maple Avenue and Cross Street.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Where is GIS Taking You?

Lawerence Baker ‘13

Lawrence went to Rock Hall Wildlife Refuge to help plant oysters into an artificial oyster bed. The bedrock went across an eighth mile wide cove in the shape of a “C” to help fight against waves. The team that he worked with placed oysters onto the bedrock by hand in chest deep water. Afterwards, they used a Garmin GPS to mark waypoints along the bedrock so they could project an image of the “C” in ArcGIS.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alumni in the Spotlight

Buffy Conrad ‘08

Buffy graduated with vast experience and skills in the GIS field. While attending Washington College, she took Professor Bruce’s GIS classes and interned in the GIS lab, all of which helped her prepare for her career after graduation. Buffy has carried her love for the GIS field into her new job with the Maryland State Highway Administration. Buffy provides GIS data for engineers such as aerials, contours, and maps. She takes photographs of sidewalks and mediums. The engineers then use these images and maps for better roadway design. She is currently working on a website, which is very new to her, that is about point collection and contours. Buffy enjoys her job with the Maryland State Highway Administration and is glad that she could use her GIS skills in the workforce.

Crime! Works So Good It’s Practically Criminal

Maryland Crime Mapping and Analysis

The GIS Lab received funding from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) to provide mapping and support in Maryland. The crimes that are mapped range from traffic accidents to homicides. The Washington College GIS Lab conducts an outreach program which invites any law enforcement agency to sign up for training. The majority of the lab’s promotion comes from word of mouth and conferences. Staff members Caryn Thomas ‘05 M’09 & Andrew Wright guide student interns in the lab teaching them the ins and outs of crime mapping. In addition to map¬ping, the GIS Lab has also worked with the Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) to create a web mapping viewer to display the over 100,000 individuals on parole or probation. This application is available to law enforcement to aid them in crime analysis.

Caryn Thomas ‘05 M’09:
Crime Mapping Analyst, was hired through the second grant the college received from GOCCP. She provides maps on demand for the Governor’s Office and other law enforcement agencies. She also provides training and technical support for crime analysts across the state of Maryland in their endeavors to produce high quality maps that will assist their officers.

Andrew Wright:
Crime Mapping Analyst, was hired through the third grant the college received from GOCCP. He mainly focuses on providing outreach and assistance to law enforcement agencies in the field. Andrew recently began teaching our 3rd Introduction to GIS course for crime analysts. Andrew trains law enforcement to use our Maryland Division Parole and Probation web mapping application that allows law enforcement to view offenders statewide.

Tracey Bienemann ’11:
“I am currently working on research to establish solid evidence for characteristics of disadvantaged neighborhoods to eventually draw conclusions about how the GIS Lab can evaluate its census block data to determine which neighborhoods are in the disadvantaged category in Maryland. I am also continuing work on the Maryland Sex Offender Mapping Errors. I have learned a lot about dangerous and unhealthy neighborhoods.”

Mary Kelley ’11:
“I am editing the crime maps that were previously made. The maps show specific crimes in Easton, Maryland. There are separate maps for separate crimes. The crimes mapped are assaults, robberies, burglaries, and theft. For each type of crime there are two maps; one for crimes in 2009 from January to July and one for crimes in 2008 from January to July.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Current Projects: Historic Chestertown in 3D

Washington College’s Stewart Bruce and his Introduction to GIS students are putting together a 3D model of the current Washington College campus. Photos and building footprints of the campus are acquired, than placed into Google Sketch Up where students rebuild the campus in 3D. Once the project is completed, it will be placed on the Washington College website so that alumni or prospective students who are not able to visit the campus will be able to take a virtual tour of Washington College. Yet, the project does not stop here. A 3D time series will also be created in order to show how the campus has changed over the years.

The GIS Lab is doing something similar with historic Chestertown. Student Stephanie Olsen ‘12 strolls the streets of Chestertown, taking pictures of the homes, than brings them back to the lab. Once in the lab, they are placed in ArcMap and Google Sketch Up where students Jimmy Bigwood ’12, Tyler Brice ‘13, Lydia Powell ‘12, and Kim Zepeda ‘13 reference the footprints, aerial photography, and street view photography to add them in developing accurate 3D representations of the buildings today.

Welcome to Water Street, Chestertown Above 3D Rendering of North Water Street, created by Washington College 3D Modeling team pictured here.

120 North Water Street

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What’s New With History?

Chris Brown ‘12

“The Historical Chestertown geography project is creating a Geographic Information System database for Chestertown. The project uses the historic Sanborn maps and census data to create interactive maps that highlight historic properties and allow the user to analyze demographic trends. The project georeferences the Sanborn Maps to current Chestertown GIS data. Access databases have been created to store the census data for the years 1900, 1910, and 1920. At this point in time I am working on linking the 1920 census data to the now georeferenced Sanborn maps. At the same time we have also started rebuilding the buildings in Google SketchUp in order to have a visual representation of what the town looks like today. The final project will be made freely available to members of the Chestertown community, the Kent County Historical Commission, as well as the Kent County Public Library and the Kent County School District.”