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 (http://www.geoweb3d.com/). 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 (http://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/), 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 (www.flyaloft.com). 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 (http://www.nvidia.com/object/product-quadro-6000-us.html).

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: http://gis.washcoll.edu/interns.php