Tuesday, February 4, 2020

GIS Designed Map Permanently Installed by Sultana

Last September, Daniel  Benton, Erin Bloodgood, Erin Beach, and Kayla Johns began work on designing a map that would span the 30′ by 25’ floor of a new education building designed by the  Sultana Education Foundation, a  long-time local non-profit institution in Kent County. The mission of the Sultana Education Foundation is to provide experiential education to students of all ages, fostering an appreciation and stewardship of all aspects of the Chesapeake Bay.

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Their newly created Education Center was built in downtown Chestertown as an environmentally conscious LEED Platinum certified hub for educational activities, community awareness and environmental projects.  The building was unveiled in the September, promising to be an invaluable tool to the area for educational platforms and opportunities for local schools.

The Sultana Education Foundation approached the GIS Program a year ago, asking for a collaborative project that would lead a team to create a map.  The map would depict the Chesapeake Bay area as it would have appeared before the colonization of North America. In size, it was to be a map that included all of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C. as well as huge tracts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

In an interview during the early stages of the project, Benton said that he had never worked on a map of a comparable scale. “It has been challenging to find data that meets the standards we are setting for ourselves,” he said. The opportunity for students to work independently on projects of this magnitude is unique to Washington College, where the experience they acquire is incredibly useful to their future professional lives.
The team finished the project in early April of this year and sent the map to Locust Grove Studios, a studio that specializes in creative design, 3D design, graphic design, and animation. They worked on editing and optimizing the color scheme and design elements of the mapping data that the GIS Program developed to fit with the building. In addition, they used their image enhancement programs to create a vivid depiction of the water through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and extended out into the North Atlantic Ocean.

This Fall/Winter the GIS team is looking forward to designing new mapping layers as part of a collaborative project with the Sultana Education Foundation, Locust Grove Studios and the National Park Service related to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Benton said they could “show just about anything, such as the routes of Smith’s voyages, archeological sites of Native American settlements, as well sea level and shoreline changes.” Locust Grove Studios has designed some map proof-of-concept data layers which can be shown from a high-tech suspended projector over the main floor of the newly created Education Center. These initial test layers have already proven the abilities of the combined map/projector system.

“I visited the new building when it was still under construction last year, but since they finished it over the summer I haven’t gotten a chance to see the completed product yet. I can’t wait to go see it,” Beach said. “I think it’s so amazing that I could help create and contribute to something that hundreds of people will see, look at, and learn from. I helped make this map, and now it’s a real thing that I can go look at. And it will last for years,” she said.

According to Benton, it’s supposed to last at least 100 years in its place by the door – quite a long lifetime.

“I would say this has been one of the most enjoyable projects that I have worked on at the GIS lab,” Benton said. “The new building is amazing and it is amazing to see this map that I worked so hard on in the building.”

At the WC GIS Program, we’re proud to see testimonials of our students that will endure long after they have graduated and moved on to their professional careers. Daniel Benton’s work with the Sultana Education Foundation is a testament to his skills and the opportunities available through collaborative effort between educational institutions. We look forward to seeing more work from Daniel before he graduates, and to the exciting future opportunities for Erin and Kayla.

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