We are fortunate here in Waterloo Region to have access to a unique high school-level program focused on geospatial technologies. The Waterloo Region District School Board offers a Geotechnology magnet program at Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) high school. This program attracts students from all over the region, who come to WCI to participate in advanced instruction in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and geospatial analysis. Students from this program learn in a dedicated computer lab, equipped with industry leading ArcGIS software from Esri. This is an exceptional program, providing a real educational advantage to students at the high school level who are interested in geospatial technologies.
After an introduction session in the classroom, we took the balloon and camera out to the WCI field for a morning flight. Students handled the balloon while it took images of the playing fields and nearby developments along Columbia Street.
The balloon reached a max height of approximately 600 feet before the students hauled it back in.
In their afternoon class, students used the open source web platform MapKnitter, to stretch and align the various photos from the balloon to create a composite image.
This hands-on experience for students showed how easy it can be to collect and assemble your own amateur airphotos. Typically we think of this type of data collection as something that only professional geospatial companies or governments can do. However, with the right type of tools, this custom data collection and mapping is open to nearly anyone with an interest. Experiencing first-hand this type of data collection can show high school students just one of the many applications of geospatial technology, and the potential of a career in geospatial technology. Given the success of this first collaboration with the WCI Geotech Magnet Program, I’m looking forward to working together to expand this student experience in the future!
I’d like to take a moment to highlight some of the recent work that our team at McGill has been involved with as part of the Geoweb for Community Development in Rural Quebec project. One of our partners, the Corporation de développement de la Rivière Noire (CDRN) has become very involved with developing Geoweb sites. The first, Géoweb Junior, was developed during summer 2011 by Andréane and Pierre, two undergraduate research assistants at McGill University. Géoweb Junior was a test case for a more detailed Geoweb tool on forest management that is currently being rolled out by CDRN with McGill support. Géoweb Junior provided students (approx. age 10) at a summer day camp organized by CDRN with info sheets to go and gather information on the local environment.
Students collected all manner of observations, from environmental problems, to species of wildlife. Many of them even drew pictures. This information was plotted on a paper map attached to the observation sheet. Students then input this information onto a Google Maps-based Geoweb site and observations were categorized.
In this way, students were able to participate in the data gathering aspect of environmental science, demonstrating how their local information could be georeferenced, and shared publicly via the Geoweb. You can take a look at their observations on the CDRN web page devoted to the project. This type of project, though fairly simple, demonstrates the ability of the Geoweb as a tool for a variety of community-based organization tasks. These could include data collection, participation, discussions, information and data sharing, and many others.
Technical details: This Geoweb implementation uses a Google Maps API tool (V2). This is hosted on a separate server and integrated into the WordPress CMS (rivierenoire.org) using an iFrame tag. Points that are added via double clicking on the map are saved in the database and can be edited or deleted by the user with an appropriate password. We plan to make this system available as an open-source template for anyone to use.