National Geographic World Championship Starts August 6th

On Sunday in San Diego, CA, teams of students from 18 countries will meet in the National Geographic World Championship. Each country’s 3-person team consists of winners in national geography bee competitions, and will have to get through a preliminary round that includes a written portion and an outdoor activity, to get to the finals at SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium on August 9th. The finals will be moderated by Alex Trebek, host of TV’s “Jeopardy.”

The US is the defending champion, and will be facing teams from Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chinese Taipei, France, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore and the UK. Good luck to all the teams, and if you’re in San Diego next week, maybe you can head over to Shamu Stadium and cheer the kids on!

Via National Geographic

A Fond Farewell to White Hall…..

So, the day has finally arrived. We have begun the process of moving WVU’s Dept of Geology and Geography, including the GIS labs where we work, to our newly-renovated building which the university spent something like $28 million dollars on. It is a little bittersweet to leave White Hall, and a lot of great pioneering GIS academic work went on here for the last 15 years or so, and some pretty big names in GIS have visited or served as faculty in this building.

Our shiny new building and labs are great, though, and we’ll be settling in as soon as they get the door locks programmed, the Internet and LAN up and running, the furniture moved…….

As you might imagine, we may be a little light on the blogging again this week, but then we’ll be settled in our new lab and won’t have to travel again for at least a month, and maybe we can finally catch up!

Service at Sea – taking GIS around the world

While we were at the ESRI UC, we had a chance to talk with Drew Stephens, who is the founder of a great program called Service at Sea. The idea is to sail around the world with a group of GIS technology professionals, teachers and students, making various stops along the way to provide GIS support and training to local community organizations involved in conservation and other initiatives. The staff on board the Service at Sea sailboat will be volunteers and a small paid crew. I think there may still be opportunities for people to volunteer as well.

Service at Sea’s boat is called the Copper Sky, and the program had a symbolic launch last Friday morning in San Diego at the end of the ESRI UC. The actual program begins in July and focuses on helping organizations along the Pacific Coast up to Valdez in Alaska. After a short break for the holidays, the second segment is planned to focus on Mexico and Central America.

It’s really a great idea, a great way for members of the GIS community to help get their expertise out to local communities who really need it, and Drew has a lot of passion and energy for the project, so I think it will be an amazing experience. They have already lined up some sponsors as well, including ESRI, National Geographic Society, AAG, and Soul Fabric Films and others. The project has also been getting some good press, including a short article at SailWorld’s website.

ESRI GIS Education Community

While we weren’t there for the announcement today, we have had a few minutes to leaf through the announced ESRI GIS Education Community site that:

is a living environment for the exchange of ideas and experiences, curriculum, software, and data among GIS educators around the globe

Most of the content has existed in different places on the ESRI site, but from what I have seen so far, it is much easier to access everything from lesson plans to the MacOS X widgets that I have not even seen before (just feed widgets so far, but I am sure they will role out an ArcWebExplorer widget eventually). If you are an educator or on the prowl for continuing ed content head over to the ESRI GIS Education Community site and give it a look.

ISDE5 – Education session 1

The education session at 2:00, focusing on spatial thinking, was interesting with an array of topics starting with ones that were very school focused and moving into areas where Digital Earth concepts can support education. I am going to save the other presentations for the audio, but I do want to point out that the 4th presentation was given by the folks from Elumenati who are using Elumens spherical visualization systems for educational use tieing immersion and scientific visualization. He made a great point kind of off handed that I latched on to and that I can not agree with enough…you have to get beyond the focus on technology to look at the content.

The future of GIS technology

Inspired by an old Numb3rs episode on schools and rfid, I started to see what GIS related technologies are being used in schools. According to the BBC, a U.K. based company, Edexcel, has created technology to rfid tag exam papers. U.S. company, aptly named Graffiti Tracker inc. has created technology to track, analyze, and reduce graffiti. You can watch their case study. It has become almost routine for new school buses to come with GPS tracking. Student tracking is gaining momentum in schools. The increased use of technology in schools has caused controversy, some people argue that they aren’t cost effective or infringe on privacy rights. Others, like some bus drivers, believe technology will be used to justify lower salaries or hiring less employees. I wonder if kids who use GIS technologies so seamlesslly in everyday life, will be so tech savvy they will push technology to a higher level then anyone can imagine in highschool (even grade school) and later in life as working professionals.

Caitlin Snaring wins National Geographic Bee

I meant to post this a couple of days ago, but we wanted to give a VerySpatial congratulations to Caitlin Snaring, the winner of the 2007 National Geographic Bee. Caitlin hails from Redmond, Washington, and is only the second girl to win the Bee in its 19-year history. She has won a $25,000 college scholarship and got to meet Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek, who served as the event’s moderator.

Way to go Caitlin!

Via CNN

Second Intro to ArcGIS Server class at the ESRI UC

For those of you attending the ESRI User Conference… apparently the Introduction to ArcGIS Server class has already filled, and there is the possibility that a second class will be offered if enough people are interested (they need at least 10 people to sign up). Also, the class will also be offered at a significantly discounted rate.

If you are interested, you must add your name to the waiting list by May 18th, which is tomorrow. To get more information, or add yourself to the waiting list, Contact Chris Kirkland at ESRI at 909-793-2853 extension 2441.

Microsoft announces Virtual Earth and SensorMap grant competition winners

Microsoft has awarded over $1.1 million in grants to winners in their Virtual Earth and SensorMap grant competitions. The SensorMap project include work on Harvard’s CitySense project, which will utilize a network of 100 sensors aroudn Cambridge, Mass. that record various types of data related to local conditions, such as current weather and traffic levels. The data will then be published on the SensorMap platform. There are a number of other interesting projects related to various types of sensors and data collection, as well as dealing with issues of integrating different types of data into the SensorMap platform.

The Virtual Earth winners hint at some of the research priorities Microsoft is interested in, including local search, building 3D models from photos (a winning proposal from Steve Seitz of the University of Washington, one of the people behind PhotoTourism, which is part of the Photosynth project), and utilizing StreetSide imagery to help generate models. Basically, all the winning projects are looking to further refine the ability to representate and navigate 3D virtual representations of the world around us.

I’ve only really touched on a small portion of the winning proposals, so for a full list of winners of these and other Microsoft Research grant programs, head to the Research Funding Opportunities page, and click on the individual grant competitions.

Via InfoWorld

Gnooks and Maps

More of a book mind map like you did in grade school, “Gnooks is a self-adapting community system based on the gnod engine. Discover new writers you will like, travel the map. of literature and discuss your favorite books and authors.” You can type in the name of an author and it will tell map out other authors that people read. There is also gnod music, movies, and a global network. The creator says that, “You might call it a search-engine to find things you don’t know about”. It’s like the ultimate form of browsing.