Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Washington College GIS Program Bringing the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment to Life

By providing a visual history and developing accurate renderings of historic sites, GIS plays a major role in bringing history to life in truly innovative ways. I was given the unique opportunity of bringing the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, an 18th-century military training academy that predates West Point, to life – 230 years after our nation’s army last used it.

This was no small task since it involved designing and building a realistic looking colonial structure from scratch without the aid of photographs or paintings. The only image that I had to work with was the so-called “Lille” drawing that was made in the winter of 1779 by a soldier turned artist. From this lone black-and-white image, and the scant archeological evidence that accompanied it, I designed a conjectural representation of what the Academy building and the long room that connected onto it would have looked like when the Continental Army stayed there over the winter of 1778-9.

Starting last June, Stewart Bruce, GIS Program Coordinator for Washington College’s GIS Lab, approached me as a possible worker on this project. On Wednesday, August 10, 2011, fellow Intern Katherine Wares ’14 and I trekked up to Trenton, New Jersey, along with Stewart and Dr. John Seidel, the Director for the Washington College Center for Environment & Study. There we met with Dr. Ian Burrow at Hunter Research to discuss the specifics of the Pluckemin archeological site. With the new and useful information acquired at this meeting, we were able to set about our project to successfully render a digital 3-dimensional image of the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, as it looked at the dawn of our country’s existence.

Here are some of the renderings that I developed for the project:

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about the Pluckemin Artillery Encampment check out this narrated history of the site and the teaser video:

The full animated video will be released at a later date with more information about how this first phase was developed and our ambitious plans for phase two.


Written by Jimmy Bigwood, GIS Intern - Washington College Class of 2012.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Washington College GIS Program Takes an Exclusive Tour of the U.S. Library of Congress

Several GIS interns, along with Professor Stewart Bruce’s GRW class, recently took a trip to the Library of Congress to receive an exclusive tour of their map rooms. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Mr. Michael Buscher, Collections Management Team Leader of the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress. Mr. Buscher escorted the group through many rooms filled with thousands of maps containing information about seemingly every place and time in history. We saw many incredible maps and atlases including an original map hand drawn by George Washington of the Potomac River and Mt. Vernon. We were also shown the first map of the new United States made after the American Revolution (as pictured below) that was recently sold at auction for 2 million dollars and then donated to the Library of Congress. The tour continued with a map that was originally annotated by Lewis and Clark, along with Stonewall Jackson’s cartographer’s original map book and a map drawn by him. This is especially relevant to our program because during the Civil War General Stonewall Jackson used GEOINT to get an advantage over the Union forces. The General told Capt. Jedediah Hotchkiss, "I want you to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense." Considering Hotchkiss's mapmaking skills, this would give Jackson a significant advantage the Union army in the campaign to come.

The staff informed us how these maps come into the possession of the Library of Congress, including through private donors interested in protecting an artifact or via government agencies that no longer require them. The Library of Congress also contains a large and growing collection of Sanborn maps that they are making digital. The Library of Congress is working together with the GIS lab for our Easton project by digitizing their Sanborn maps of Easton, Maryland.

After seeing a vast array of maps, atlases, and globes, both new and old, we were shown the room where maps are scanned and digitized using an extremely large state-of-the-art scanning machine (pictured below). However, the trip did not end there. We also visited the Library of Congress Jefferson building and were able to see Thomas Jefferson’s library, as well as a copy of the 2 million dollar map we had previously seen in person. To cap the day off our group toured the U.S. Botanical Garden.

With George Washington’s upcoming birthday early next year, Ed Redmond, Senior Reference Specialist and Curator, Vault Collections of the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress, will be giving a talk on George Washington's maps here at Washington College for the occasion. Coupled with this talk, the GIS Program is planning an exhibit of Washington's maps and surveys to coincide with the celebration of George Washington's birthday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Washington College GIS Program Designs Online Training for Teachers and Students through the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Grant

As our nation tries to remain competitive when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), it is vital that we embrace new methods for helping our nation’s educators inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists who will ultimately drive innovation for the U.S.

The GIS program has entered into a venture with the Education Department at Washington College to create an online training course for its teachers. This course will give teachers the resources they need to incorporate STEM into their classrooms. This project is funded by a U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Grant. Over the course of four years the GIS curriculum will be turned into a resource for teachers and their students to learn key concepts of STEM and GIS.

Another part of this project is making STEM entertaining for students’ and incorporating it into everyday learning practices. To kick this off we have recently introduced a STEM Club at the local elementary school in Chestertown, MD where students will be learning Google Sketch Up and about basic machines and technologies. Twice a week, 5-12 students will learn the tools and skills associated with Google SketchUp. The student’s will be given a design task that will require them to create a model with specific measurements in 3D. The model will have to look presentable and functional. The students will not only learn about STEM concepts, but will learn to work together and collaborate on ideas.

Over the summer there will be a week long teacher training on the STEM material. This training will provide a chance for the teachers to dive in to the material while having the support of the people who created the material. This will also give the GIS lab a chance to receive some feedback on the lessons from the teachers so that we can make improvements to the material in the second year of the grant. This STEM curriculum touches on Google Earth, Google Sketch Up, Google Earth Tours, GPS, the use of GIS in Ecology, as well as the fundamentals of STEM. With the creation of this course we are hoping to encourage more teachers to incorporate STEM into their classrooms and show them how GIS is the perfect vehicle for doing that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Easton, Maryland Historic District Brought to Life with 3D Imagery by Washington College GIS Program

GIS plays a critical role in regional town planning issues especially when it comes to historic districts. While traditional GIS mapping of these areas have been vital to new development in these areas, the rise of 3D provides even greater visual awareness for decision-making. This is why we are excited about our efforts to help the Town of Easton bring its historic district to life in 3D.
Funded by the Maryland Historical Trust through a grant to Easton, our team of students and staff are busy creating 3D streetscapes in Easton, Maryland using Google Sketch-up and other software programs such as Geoweb3D ( They are also building a relational database and a historic GIS map of the town dating back to the 1800’s.

To comprehensively map the Easton Historic District, students are taking pictures of every building in the historic district to be entered into an Access database, which will be used to generate data entry forms for field surveys. A base GIS map will be created and will be linkable to the database. A variety of data sources will be used for this project, including color Sanborn maps from the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division (, which will be georeferenced for the Town of Easton.

Students are also creating 3D buildings, with a focus on complete streetscapes, using Google Sketch-up for 120 buildings in the Historic District that will be viewable in Google Earth. An essential part of this phase of the project is aerial imagery provided by Aloft Aerial Photography so the students can have a complete image of each building ( The Town of Easton is thinking proactively about using these 3D streetscapes to aid in town planning issues, especially those relating to new development in the Historic District. Once the 3D streetscapes are completed, a video animation of the Historic District in 3D will be created and shared on the web. This animation work is made possible through the donation of a Quadro 6000 video card from NVIDIA which is perhaps the best video card for producing graphics intensive videos such as we are using (

Written by staff member Erica Rhoades.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Washington College GIS Taps Into The 'Best and Brightest' for Its Intern Program

Intern Spotlight: Class of 2012

Current interns are participating in hands-on training in ArcGIS, Google Earth, Google SketchUp, Powerpoint, Articulate, AutoDesk 3DS Max, video editing, Geotime, and more - all using real data. Thanks to the efforts of our students, we are able to take on the wide variety of projects showcased in this blog.

Jimmy Bigwood '12
GIS Intern

Jimmy is currently a senior at WC hoping to double major in history and physics. He hails from Towson, Maryland and is a member of the WC Musician's Union and enjoys playing music and spending time outdoors. This past summer he worked on Washington College's ongoing Poplar Grove Project at the Maryland State Archives.

Jessica Brennan '12
GIS Intern
Jessica Brennan is a senior double majoring in anthropology and English. She is from Morrisville, PA, and she transferred to WAC from Bucks County Community College her sophomore year. Jessica performs on campus with the Early Music Consort and Girls on the Chester, an a cappella group. She is new to the GIS lab this semester and is working on the Easton 3D project.

Chris Brown '12
GIS Intern
Chris is a senior at Washington College and will be majoring in history. He is from Waynesboro, PA. He is interested in how GIS can relate to history. He enjoys playing intramural sports. This year he is once again the cryer for townball, an eighteenth century predecessor to baseball, played on the Campus Green Fridays in the fall and spring.

Smaa Koraym '12
GIS Intern
Smaa is majoring in biology with a chemistry minor and conducting the pre-med program. Her ultimate goal is to build a hospital in Egypt that would provide medical care to individuals who otherwise would not have access. She enjoys reading about international issues.

Lydia Powell '12
GIS Intern
Lydia is a senior at Washington College, majoring in biochemistry premed. She is from Moorestown, NJ, and she is the captain of the women's rugby club. Lydia is currently working on a project with Dr. Ryan on Lyme Disease.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I am currently a member of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Pilot Internship program. Along with the other members of the internship program, I am working with open source data to collect current and future information about Peru, specifically the country’s energy usage. This means that I am collecting information through avenues that everyone can now access due to search engines such as Google which has streamlined the search for information on the internet. Google has also enabled users to remove language barriers by converting webpages in different languages via Google Translator. The search doesn’t stop there though - we are utilizing print sources, social media and satellite imagery to complete our reports.

The objective of the internship is to provide the NGA with sufficient anticipatory data on a fringe country such as Peru. As a result of less civil strife or damage from extreme weather than other countries might experience, Peru is currently not a big player in the news; thus, the NGA has not prioritized Peru. With the whole world to cover, the NGA focuses on countries in war time and those that have been devastated by extreme weather conditions. By providing anticipatory data on Peru we are hopefully giving a substantial foundation of knowledge to NGA about the country, which will help the agency should Peru suddenly become a priority.

The objective of the internship is broad so the program is broken up into three groups all covering different topics: 1) demographics, 2) water usage and, 3) energy usage, with my specific topic being the energy usage. To provide a good basis for the NGA we are exploring many aspects of energy. These subjects range from the analysis of macro level questioning regarding Peru’s overall energy usage, energy import and export, usage of alternative energies and fossil fuels to a more micro level of analysis seeing if different regions contribute dissimilar levels of pollution, and how many citizens drive cars contributing to gas emissions. To aid in the presentation of this information I am utilizing ArcGIS 10 software to create maps of Peru’s energy grid. This map will include the electrical grid and power stations that contribute to Peru’s total amount of available energy.


Written by Cara Murray.

Cara is a sophomore from Frederick, MD majoring in Environmental Studies. She enjoys participating in every aspect of WC Theater, volunteering with the Service Council and going to shore clean-ups with SEA. This is her second year working for GIS.

Meet more of our Interns:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chestertown Comes to Life in 3D

With the help of students and staff, the Chestertown 3D project incorporated data from multiple locations to create a full 3D visualization of the Chestertown, Maryland Historic District (Chestertown). This was accomplished by using many software programs, including Google Sketchup, Google Earth, Geoweb 3D, ArcMap 10, Global Mapper 11, Jing and Camtasia Studio. By using data from these programs, the team was able to bring full 3D images of buildings with georeferenced light poles, building polygons and trees to build a rich full 3D environment.

The focus of this project was to accurately represent Chestertown in 3D. This was done by compiling data on each historic building and taking detailed photographs of the accompanying buildings’ architecture. Using these images, each building was built from the ground up in a program called Google Sketchup. After the building was accurately modeled, it was placed on the matching property in Google Earth and exported, then brought into a program called Geoweb 3D. Using Geoweb 3D, the tree, light and polygon data, along with the 3D buildings, were incorporated into the program to create a living scene that modeled the Chestertown Historic District. Students and staff gathered real tree and light data, and then placed the corresponding points on the exact spots in which they were located. These were bundled together in files in ArcMap, where they could then be used in Geoweb 3D to place 3D trees and lights.

Through the combined efforts of multiple students and staff members, this project brought together layers of data and files in order to create a rich full 3D environment that shows an exact replica of the Chestertown Historic District. The Chestertown 3D project has provided future opportunities for the lab to conduct similar projects in other towns, with Easton, Maryland already under way.

Fly over Chestertown, MD:

More information regarding the Chestertown 3D Project:

We would like to thank NVIDIA who donated a Quadro 5700 video card that was needed to complete this project:

Written by Tyler Brice, Washington College class of 2013.

Tyler Brice '13
GIS Intern

Tyler is a junior from Chestertown, MD and plans to major in biology and hopes to pursue the pre-medical studies program. He is currently an EMT-B and runs calls with the local EMS station. Meet more of our Interns:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Washington GIS Moves to New State-of-the-Art Facility to Meet Enhanced Growth of the Program

Moving vans arrived late in the summer in front of Goldstein Hall to move the GIS Laboratory to their new home in the Chestertown Business Park. Since 2004, the GIS Laboratory has been located in Goldstein 206, and in 2008 they expanded to also include Goldstein 200. However, with a growing need for space and increased physical and network security, it became evident that a move was needed. Due to space limitations on campus, any move would have to be to an office away from the main Washington College Campus. A potential space was quickly identified and secured at 151 Dixon Drive Suite 3 in Chestertown, a ten-minute walk from campus. The new office space is three times the space the GIS Laboratory occupied in Goldstein Hall.

After the space was leased the real work began, with a mere three weeks before the start of the academic year to move desks, computer equipment, install and configure network equipment and move a server. Thanks to a professional moving company, John Massey, Dave de’Marsi and Sarah Smith from the Office of Information Technology at Washington College, the GIS Laboratory was up and running when students returned for the start of the school year.

The GIS Laboratory now features private offices for full time staff, a conference room, a larger student work area and increased physical security measures, including a centrally monitored alarm system, electronic access control and video surveillance. The GIS Laboratory has expanded from nine student workstations to sixteen. Additionally, the GIS Laboratory hours have been extended until 6:30pm during the week and from 9am to 2pm on Saturdays to allow student interns more flexibility.

The new address of the GIS Laboratory is 151 Dixon Drive Suite 3 Chestertown, MD 21620. Along with the new office came new telephone numbers. Please be sure to update your contact directory with the numbers below:

Carol Wagner: 443-282-0010
Andrew Wright: 443-282-0011
Stew Bruce: 443-282-0012
Emily Aiken: 443-282-0014
Erica Rhoades: 443-282-0015
Samantha Bulkilvish: 443-282-0016

Monday, October 17, 2011

Washington College GIS Program Helps The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Predict Future Problems in Peru

Being able to anticipate and mitigate future problems in developing countries is a core tenet of the U.S. Intelligence Community. For the first time ever, the premier intelligence agency for imagery and mapping, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), is tapping into the world of academia to help anticipate future problems in the developing nation of Peru.

Being led by Professors Stewart Bruce (GIS), Aaron Lampman (Anthropology) and Andrew Oros (Political Science and International Studies), this unprecedented program will involve using open source software to obtain information regarding demographics, water resources, health-related issues, energy and food resources so that future problems can be anticipated in both scope and location in Peru.

Three student teams are compiling this information and will be resending it to the NGA as a final report later this year. With so many hot spots throughout the world, intelligence agencies have had to focus the majority of their attention away from calmer areas, like Peru, that may experience difficulties in the future. Each team hopes to identify areas that deserve the NGA’s attention so potential issues can be avoided. This is especially important because of the possibility of security problems arising from the possible scarcity of necessary resources.

This project gives interdisciplinary Washington College students the ability to become more familiar with GIS projects as well as highlight their skills and gain knowledge in the intricacies of the work of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

What we’ve been doing:

We’re currently in the process of figuring out how to gain and, with more difficulty, process geotagged information on crime in Lima. Specifically, we are trying to figure out how to filter information through social media into a central database because most social media now comes with a latitude/longitude location when it is shared through a cellphone. This has been done before for crises in Iran, Syria and Egypt. Hopefully, by creating the necessary framework before a problem appears the NGA can be better prepared to sift through the millions of pieces of information they will receive. Open source geospatial programs exist for uploading information to a central database; we’re also trying to figure out how to incorporate those.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Crime! Works So Well it’s Practically Criminal

Through funding from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the GIS lab has developed MOMS, (Maryland Off ender Management System), an innovative web-based application that centralizes justice information and shares it with designated law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. New funding will provide a number of technical enhancements to MOMS, improving the ability of the application to handle additional datasets, and improve the security and reliability of the system. James Costigan, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office said that MOMS will help “protect the citizens of Maryland and Delaware through the integration of law enforcement data.

Devin Hayward ‘14
Devin Hayward is a freshman at Washington College and is majoring in Psychology with a concentration in clinical counseling. Devin became interested in GIS when she learned about what the lab does with crime mapping and analysis. She hopes that working in the GIS “crime lab” will provide her with skills and knowledge that will help her later on in her career goals. Devin is currently working on crime mapping and data analysis, most of which is specifically focused to improving MOMS.

Sam Margolis ‘14
Sam decided to work for GIS because he has always been interested in Criminology and after taking the classes on GIS and seeing its potential he became more interested in the topic. Currently he is working in the crime department of the GIS Lab. His current project is making a map showing all of the burglaries that have taken place in and around Hyattsville, Maryland. By using GIS he hopes to help law enforcement agencies do their job more efficiently by using the maps to determine any crime patterns in the area.

Jeff Sullivan ‘14
Jeff is a freshman here at Washington College, and plans on majoring in Environmental Studies. Jeff became interested in GIS after taking the introductory course and seeing its potential relevance with wildlife management. He hopes that working as a GIS intern will expand his abilities and knowledge of GIS software. Currently Jeff is working on research about previous off ender mapping systems, and will soon begin working with the MOMS system.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

GIS Close To Home

By: Otto Borden ‘13

Ever tour Europe without leaving the comfort of your couch? Or explore the history of Islamic travelers through Google Tours? The students in Professor Sorrentino’s class had the chance to do just that. The GIS lab was able to teach the students how to use Google tours and how to create their own tours. This meant including images, blurbs, and hyperlinks to the sources of their information to give the best Google tour for their assignment. Also, GIS had the privilege of running the lab’s online learning program for Professor Sorrentino. While the learning process is taking place close to home, the subjects and environments are across land, sea, and history!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mapping Beyond the Lab

By: Matt Stiles 11’

Over the summer I started working in the GIS lab, working on crime mapping projects along with a few other projects. I also worked with the summer camp where I got to spend a few days driving a boat up and down the Chester River, mapping docks and collecting water samples. As an Environmental Studies major, during the beginning of my senior year I needed to start developing a plan for my senior capstone project. After some preliminary research I decided to do my project as a comparison between ethanol and biodiesel. I am able to utilize many of my skills that I obtained working in the GIS lab to help with my Capstone Project. I have been collecting national data about crops and ethanol producing plants to show where ethanol can be produced. This is very important because ethanol, unlike biodiesel, has many challenges when it comes to transportation because it absorbs water rapidly and can go bad. These maps can show where ethanol can be easily produced and marketed, and they are important because the only way that ethanol could be feasible is if it can reach the consumers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Project STEM: Improving Education

By: Devin Hayward ‘14

Nationwide, the falling standards in education in American schools has become a source of public outcry. Here, on the Eastern Shore, Washington College has partnered with Kent and Queen Anne’s County public schools to improve teaching and development in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). By applying for an Education Grant WC’s Departments of Education, Biology, Chemistry, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Lab will be working together with the local schools to help improve these standards. The primary objectives are to “provide professional development” to raise the skill level of teachers and to “develop elementary STEM certification for the whole state,” says Michelle Johnson, a WC professor of education. To manage a STEM influenced classroom, pre-service teachers will participate in a STEM field experience. Also, to earn CEU credit, in-service teachers will complete an Intro to STEM course. Faculty from the Departments of Chemistry and Biology, along with staff from GIS, will assist with two summer professional development experiences that will last for three days. Twenty teachers will be able to participate. For the first two days they will be in training, and on the third day they will be in the classroom to implement what they have learned. Not only does this benefit teachers and students of Kent and Queen Anne’s county, but students of WC as well. Classroom teachers who participate in the summer experience will host a WC field student. The field student, who will be there to help implement the STEM classroom, will gain one credit for their participation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pot Luck Projects

Currently, the GIS team is enjoying the pleasure of working with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on a project that will help the government visualize the relationship between patients and travel distance to Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) locations. The project consists of gathering information that will allow the lab to create visual maps of this relationship. Such maps greatly help the individual FQHC’s evaluate which areas are medically underrepresented and which region would be ideal to place a new FQHC.

GIS, Public Health, and Ultimate Goals

By: Smaa Koraym ‘12

This project has expanded the horizon of the WAC GIS team. Having the opportunity to work on such a project is particularly important to me because it touches on my career path, public health. Furthermore, I will have the chance to understand the governmental aspect of how to run an organized health care system. My interest in such knowledge and skill is rooted from my goal to implement a clean, organized health care system in many underdeveloped countries, especially in my home country of Egypt.

Where is GIS Taking You?

By: Nicholas Tremper

I'm currently studying in London participating in the Hansard Program. Luckily, I've been able to get assignments from the GIS lab expanding on what I do when I'm on campus. Since all of our educational materials are online I'm able to work on the lectures from abroad. This is great because it allows me to keep on top of what's happening in the lab as well as getting to be a part of the ever evolving GIS curriculum. We're able to reach students throughout the country as work is being done throughout the world.

Current Projects: Walking Maps

By: Heather Black

It probably doesn’t come as a shock that everything in and around Chestertown is within 3 miles of the college, taking about 15 minutes to walk. A little further away is the country club, taking around 30 minutes to walk to, where you can hit some golf balls around. Or, if golf is not your style, you can stay right on campus and still walk just over a mile. Plus staying on campus provides you with all the added benefits of the Casey Swim Center and the Lifetime Fitness Center. Why not enjoy the beauty of Chestertown and exercise at the same time?

The GIS Lab has partnered with the Director of Human Resources, Alan Chesney, and Recreation Director, Jonathan Jenkins, to establish walking maps that show faculty, staff , and students different routes. These routes can be taken at your leisure to take advantage of the chance to exercise and be outdoors. Since the weather will be getting better soon, we are hoping that more and more members of the community will decide to spend time outdoors. This will be a better opportunity than being confined to the indoors of the academic buildings or the dorms. By showing the Washington College community the different walking routes that they could take, we are hoping to encourage the community to exercise. We are doing so by showing that one does not need to go to the gym and lift weights or run on a treadmill to lose weight. You can instead simply step outside and take a walk. You can access these walking maps from the following link.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Alumni in the Spotlight

By: Kathy Gerhart ‘10

After graduating from WC with a BA in Environmental Studies, I was hired by Alpha Environmental Management Corporation in mid-June. It is a consulting company that focuses on the fields of environment, energy, and safety. My position is Environmental Analyst. My main duty is to perform storm water inspections at residential construction sites. These inspections are required as part of the NPDES permit which was put into place as part of the Clean Water Act. On site I check erosion and sediment controls to make sure that the site is not polluting local water ways.