Pinpointing Amelia Earhart

Students participate in Geographic Information Systems Day

By Hannah Lentz | 3/30/14 6:50pm


GVL/Courtesy Kin Ma
Local middle school students gathered at Grand Valley for Geography Day, which took place on March 28th.

On March 28, 50 middle school students gathered in Mackinac Hall at Grand Valley State University for the Geographic Information Systems Day hosted by the geography department.

Throughout the day, students engaged in a variety of activities relating to Geographic Information Systems, including an interactive demonstration using Geographic ArcGIS software to find a lost explorer, Amelia Earhart, and a geocaching activity.

GVSU has been holding GIS Day activities annually since 2003 with professor Kin Ma. This year, the event showcased a “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” theme and was hosted by students of the Geography Club and geography majors.

“Grand Valley students will gain experience leading and teaching groups of middle schools students. They can share their enthusiasm about geography and geospatial technologies with the younger generation,” Ma said. “Grand Valley students shall be informal ambassadors of Grand Valley and higher education. The hope is that this small taste of college will inspire these young students to aspire to attend college or even Grand Valley.”

The geography department partnered with the West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science to provide lessons on GIS and GPS, as these skills are being used at an increasing rate in everyday businesses across the nation.

“Grand Valley geography (department) can contribute our expertise in geospatial/geographic technologies, such as Geographic Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems to a local community group to increase our community engagement and to share our excitement of geography and geospatial technologies with the younger generation,” Ma said.

The middle school students led by teacher Terry Treman gained insight into GVSU’s experience with GIS and positioning systems.

“This event gives students an opportunity to be on a college campus and have a real life experience,” Treman said. “Seventy percent of our students receive free and reduced lunch, and 60 percent of students are considered at risk. With little family experience with higher education, this is a great experience for all. In a more technical way, it is great to have the kids understand things they have learned in class and to reinforce the ideas we stress in the classroom.”

Though the event was mainly aimed at the sixth-grade students in attendance, it also gave several GVSU students an opportunity to interact with younger students and provide some of their knowledge in a real-life application. In fact, the Amelia Earhart activity is a part of a 300-level class that students have already taken.

“We want to showcase to the younger generation that geography and geographic technologies are very relevant to helping find the lost plane of Amelia Earhart from a century ago and in the search for the current Malaysian Airlines Flight No. 370,” Ma said. “Daily satellite images and GIS and GPS technologies are critical in helping the search teams pinpoint potential crash location points.”

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