Monday, September 24, 2012

Student Spotlight: Jessica O'Brien

     Have you ever wanted to learn how to perform 3D sketches, but figured the software would cost too much or the classes would be outrageously expensive? Unfortunately, this is usually the case for most people. Jessica O’Brien has discovered that this is not so at Washington College.
     “The best thing about the software we use is that it’s available for free - anybody who wanted to sit down and learn could. That surprises a lot of people. When you tell someone you are modeling a building virtually in 3D, then placing it into a gaming platform, they automatically think programs which cost big bucks, but that's not the case,” said O’Brien.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Paddling On the Chester: GIS In Our Community

Paddling On the Chester: GIS In Our Community
By Cara Murray

When hearing about Washington College’s GIS Program many people are quick to mention our comprehensive crime data analysis, our innovative 3D renderings, or our educational outreach and professional development program. Let’s be real, we do a lot of cool things at WC GIS but one of the aspects of our office that I find to be my favorite is our community work. While these projects may not have the same magnitude they offer us the chance to not only give back to our community but also meet a ton of great people and learn about what is going on in our area.

I have recently had the opportunity to work with Jack Brosius on an awesome project mapping the course for the Special Olympics Paddling trials. Some of you may recognize Jack as a member of the U.S. Rowing Team in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics; while he has since retired his love of paddling has only grown along with his busy schedule. He now spends much of his time recruiting and training rowing athletes for the Paralympic games.

While completing the map for the Paddling Event, which happened right next to our very own WC Boathouse in the Chester River last Sunday the 16th, Jack’s enthusiasm for the sport and for his athletes was palpable.  He told me that this sport is one of the fastest growing for para-athletes due to the versatility of the boats themselves; they can accommodate a variety of challenges to give each athlete the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities.

Working with Jack has been a great experience and the project is still ongoing as we are working to map out the State Games as well! Not only did I get to work on a fun digitizing project mapping out the 500 meter and the 200 meter course I had the chance to learn about an awesome sport and the amazing athletes that participate in it. Who knows, we might see some of these athletes again in Rio!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Student Spotlight: Sam Margolis


     At a liberal arts college, it is encouraged that students think outside the box, take risks, and dive into new areas of interest. It is easy to become involved in clubs and courses that you would not normally consider, in fact, it is the college’s strength. Junior Sam Margolis did just this.
     “Freshman year of college I randomly decided to take the Intro to GIS Course, not entirely sure of what it was about. The first few weeks I honestly considered dropping out, thinking that it was not for me. Luckily I stuck with it and within a semester I had a job in the GIS lab doing crime mapping and analysis.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Technology Scholar and Businessman to Present Insight on Commercial Technology in the Realm of the U.S. Intelligence Community

Dr. Christopher K. Tucker will share his experiences during his tenure as the Chief Strategic Officer of In-Q-Tel in a free public lecture on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at Washington College. The talk will take place at 7 p.m. in Litrenta Lecture Hall on the main campus, 300 Washington Avenue, Chestertown. This talk is sponsored by the GIS Program, the GRW Program, the Center for Environment and Society, and the Business Management Department.

Photo Courtesy of USGIF Website
            He will also be giving presentations on his new MapStory Foundation social venture in the Navigating Maps GRW class at 8:30 a.m. and the Introduction to GIS class at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26.  Guests are welcome to sit in these classes if interested.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Alumni Spotlight: Nichole (Bryant) Gillis '09

     It’s true that success speaks for itself - WC GIS Lab Alumni are making big statements in the world of Geospatial Information Systems as they emerge with skills and experience unparalleled to most. Nichole (Bryant) Gillis, started working in the GIS Lab her junior year at WC. A Business Management major with a concentration in Biology and Chemistry, her knowledge gained in the classroom and the GIS Lab has proved to be most vital in her career.
     Gillis got her start in GIS by working on curriculum development. In time she harbored an interest in many aspects of Geospatial Data Technology. Upon graduation in 2009, she worked for one year as a full time staff member of the GIS Lab before pursuing her Master of Science degree in GIS Management from Salisbury University. Viewed distinctly as someone obviously well – trained in GIS skills, she landed her current position as a Geospatial Intelligence Analyst at Man Tech International in July 2011.
     “I saw a need for higher education in GIS and actually finished my last semester’s final exams the first week of my position at Man Tech.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Student Spotlight: Cara Murray

    At Washington College, students do not have to eagerly await professional job experience, or a chance to travel, until after graduation day. Endless opportunity begins here in our backyard of Chestertown, especially for students who have discovered the art of Geographic Information Systems. Junior, Cara Murray, took a position on the WC GIS Lab team fall semester of her freshman year. A double major in Environmental Studies and Psychology, the skills she is learning as a GIS Intern has already begun to open doors of opportunity for her in her field.
     Cara Murray is just one of many students benefiting and learning through WC GIS. Not only are these students learning, but they are giving back to the community through their work. Serving as an example to other colleges and universities, WC GIS has made great strides in engaging students in effective research projects.

     A project known as the “Queen Anne’s Development Project,” was Murray’s first big project – mapping where hypothetical subdivisions in Queen Anne’s County were created to analyze the effect further development would have on the amount of prime farmland.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

GIS Meets With Maryland State Police

On August 20, 2012, Andrew Wright and Erica McMaster attended the Maryland State Police’s Northern Region Stat meeting (MSP Stat). MSP Stat meetings are held biweekly, and are separated into the following Troops/Regions: Northern, Southern, Central, Western, Eastern, and Washington Metro. The Northern Region consists of the Bel Air, North East, and JFK Barracks. Highlighted during the meeting were successes for each Barrack and crash data quarter comparisons, which mentioned the work Washington College has been doing for MSP.

A success story for the North East Barrack included a sobriety checkpoint location identified as a high crash area by Washington College that resulted in 48 vehicles being stopped and one arrested for a DUI.  Each of the three Barracks pushes the maps created by Washington College showing various traffic accident data out to their Troopers to use in their daily patrols. The maps are used for confirming and reinforcing areas already identified by MSP as high traffic accident areas, but also to identify new areas to target. The Barracks are also using the mapping products to analyze daily trends on specific types of traffic accidents, such as those caused by aggressive driving. 

Picture source: Pikesville Patch

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Elementary STEM Summer Institute: Integrating Geospatial Technology In the Classroom

GIS program staff Kate Hayman, Megan Wise, and Emily Aiken, along with Elementary Education Field Experiences Coordinator Michelle Johnson, attended the Elementary STEM Summer Institute in Cambridge in order to learn more about the STEM Standards of Practice. As part of our Race to the Top program, the GIS Lab has been working with Michelle and the Washington College elementary education team in order to develop curriculum to bring GIS into the classroom right from the start.

So what is STEM, and why is it so important for GIS? It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and STEM education practices aim to integrate these four fields together in the classroom. By using STEM, students learn early on that science and math are not independent sets of facts, but that knowledge from one field can be applied in the other. STEM also integrates problem-based learning, or PBL, which aims to transform the usual teacher-centered curriculum into classes driven by problem-solving and discovery. Students are encouraged to actively engage with the material and apply the scientific method: rather than keeping silent because they fear giving the “wrong answer,” PBL students learn that an incorrect hypothesis just means you revise and try again.

The National Science Foundation estimates that 80% of the jobs created in the next decade will require some form of math and science skills. How can GIS help in preparing our students for the future? Implementing technology effectively is an integral part of STEM, and geospatial technology is a rapidly growing field. We have seen with our own student interns that learning a program like Google Sketchup first gives them greater confidence with more complex 3D applications like 3DSMax and Unity in the future. Likewise, bringing a foundation of geospatial concepts into the classroom early on will give students a head start on a future as GIS professionals. With the help of what we learned at this ESTEM conference, we hope to develop a training program that will give teachers the GIS tools they need to bring geospatial technology into their STEM curriculum.