A little recognition for the GeoBee

If you have watched the GeoBee then you probably feel as though you need to spend more time with your globe and atlas. It was great to see President Obama ask one of the questions showing that someone at the White House gets the importance of Geography and its impact on the world.

Dude, Where’s Your Map? Map Contests

ESRI recently sent out reminders about submitting static paper or interactive maps for the 2012 ESRI UC Map competition. This year they have added a User Software Applications contest for applications using Esri technology or customized Esri software product.  The map gallery and user software application fair are huge events with hundreds of submissions, but don’t let that discourage you from submitting to their or other upcoming map contests.

The North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) is sponsoring its 14th Annual Student Dynamic Map Competition to promote cartographic excellence and innovation. There are two competition categories: narrative maps and interactive maps. Entries must be submitted by Friday September 14, 2012.

National Geographic has several map competitions for college and young professionals through the  Association of American Geographers/Cartography award, British Cartographic Society award, and the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) award

The Barbara Petchenik International World Map Design Competition has a new theme for their 2013 competition: My Place in Today’s World.  Many teachers worldwide use the competition as part of their geography or GIS curriculum. The rules for the 2013 competition can be downloaded in September.

And because I think that video game maps use many of the same geo-spatial skills and design techniques as other types of interactive maps, I have included video game layer map contests. The  Source engine based Multiplayer game, Nuclear Dawn, has a Nuclear Dawn map contestwith prizes due by June 25.  Beanstalk, a search engine optimization company, is promoting a contest to create Minecraft maps based on the beanstalk theme with prizes due by May 31st.

Whatever form they take map contests are a good way to encourage students, professionals, and the general public to think about maps in creative ways.

 

Zombies and Geospatial Analysis

If you have met me, you know that I would love to teach a geography class using  the book  World War Z by Max Brooks, a journalist who uses a zombie apocalypse to discuss current events and world geography. David Hunter, a middle school teacher in Seattle, Washington beat me to the punch. He is asking for help on Kickstarter to create a  Grade 5-8 Standards Based curriculum “Learning Geography skills through a Zombie Apocalypse Narrative”.  His concept is not as far fetched as it seems. At the WV Association for Geospatial Professionals conference this week Sheila Wilson, Executive Director of the GIS Certificate Institute (GISP) started off her talk with the CDC  Zombie Preparedness Guide. She talked about how in the guide a GIS team who were prepared to spatially analyze zombie hot spots, were prepared for anything.  According to Cartographia, Austin TX has been prepared for a zombie outbreak since 2007.

Joking aside, I think that the zombie apocalypse creates a “sandbox” for researchers, educators, and society to analyze and understand complex, interconnected geospatial issues in a non-threatening way.  I’m not the only one who feels this way. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant a geography professor at Monmouth University is hopefully going to be presenting a paper on “Popular Culture and GIS: Using Geospatial Technologies to Model and Prepare for the Zombie Apocalyze.” at the 2012 ESRI Education User’s Conference (EDUC). There is also a 2012 ESRI International User’s session dedicated to Health, Behavior, and Zombies.  Preparing for zombie outbreaks on Earth is inspiring geospatial professionals to innovate and think big much like Star Trek has inspired decades of engineers.

If you want to experience your own zombie attack, Class 3 Outbreak is a zombie outbreak simulator played via Google maps at hundreds of locations world wide.

GIS Summer Camps for Students

Summer time is a great time for students of all ages to learn about GIS and geospatial technologies because it is a very hands-on technology. There are often GIS summer camps being offered at local colleges or incorporated into the general activities of 4-H and other camps. Some examples of upcoming summer camps by age group include:

High School

The GeoX: Geosciences Exploration Summer Program  is a FREE one-week program for high-achieving high  school juniors and seniors by being offered by Texas A & M (June 1-8, 2012).  It combines a mixture of classroom, campus, and field trips, along with technical and career skills.  The geosciences, especially geography, is a field that takes more recruitment at the high school level because of the misconception that geography is only being able to name all the countries in the world. This is changing as more high school outreach programs like this one introduce students to real life applications of geospatial skills and awareness. Application deadline is: April 9

Junior High

The TwiST GIS Summer Camp is offered by the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technologies (IAGT), Cayuga Community College, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the National Geospatial Technology Center, CIESIN and the New York State GIS Association to coincide with the Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) Workshop for educators (June 28 – July 1).  Students learn geospatial technologies such as GIS, GPS, and remote sensing by working on a real world project.  Many STEM educators believe that junior high is one of the best times to get students interested in science, technology, and math related careers. Scholarships are available.

Grade School

The Harbor Discoveries Camp is offered by the New England Aquarium (July 9 – 24, 2012).  It is an interactive marine and environmental science program that uses geospatial technologies. Some of the activities include behind–the-scenes activities at Aquarium galleries, “excursions to Boston Harbor Islands, daily field trips to North and South Shore habitats, and an overnight experience.” Older students who have attended the camp are eligible to apply to be teachers and camp counselors. Many aquariums, museums, and nature preserves offer similar programs for students who don’t want to attend away camps.

Educators

The Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) Workshop offered by the IAGT and Cayuga Community College (June 25-28, 2012) is designed to teach K-12 teachers and college faculty members in the United States how to teach and empower through geospatial technologies in the classroom. In 2011, the TwiST workshop was recognized in an Esri Special Achievements in GIS Award for  11 years of geospatial education. Scholarships are available.  Application deadline is: April 15

The “SATELLITES” (Students And Teachers Exploring Local Landscapes to Interpret The Earth from Space) K12 Summer Teacher Institute at the University of Toledo (July 9-13, 2012) is an award winning teacher education program focusing on geospatial technology and climate change and student research projects. The SATTELITES teachers have gone to the have gone to the White House Science Fair for the past two years.

Application Deadline: April 17, 2012

 

ESRI Kid’s Camp

Don’t forget that if you are attending the 2012 ESRI User’s Conference this year, they offer a GIS Kids Camp (July 24-26, 2012) Many summer conferences offer geospatial education programs for kids attending the conference with their parents.

If you know of any upcoming summer camps, post them in the comments section.

 

King’s College [geography] quiz

In December, the Guardian UK website posted the questions for the notoriously difficult King William’s College quiz or General Knowledge Paper (GKP) given to students (and parents) at King William’s College on the Isle of Man.  In another article on, “The Story of the King Wiliams’s College Quiz” quizmaster Dr Pat Cullen discusses the impact of the Internet on the 106 year old quiz and attempts to Google and social media proof the quiz to keep it intellectually challenging. MacLean’s Canada article on the history of the quiz is simply titled, “The World’s Most Difficult Quiz. Really.

While only section 2 relates specifically to geography and cartography, I estimated that about 70  of the 180 questions could be considered geo-spatial.  These range from questions such as, “4 Who first used continuous and broken lines to indicate fenced and unfenced roads?”  to  5 Where did close neighbours claim the invention of a device for observing at a distance?  The answers to last year’s questions were posted in February, so you will have to wait a while if you get stumped.

The quizmaster Dr. Pat Cullen doesn’t live in a dusty library tower, he is also a birder and citizen scientist for the Isle of Man which is home to several rare species of birds.

New Year Trivia and Tweets

There are many sources for New Year’s interactive maps for 2012. The Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Education site has an interactive map and social studies quiz on “Celebrating New Year’s Around the World: Understanding Time Zones“. If you get stuck on the answers, point flags pop up on the map with additional information. Maps of the World has an interactive map that counts down the time to 2012 for each country. The BBC news online also has an interactive map which shows the most popular news stories for the day in real time. So far, New Year’s Eve Celebrations Start has remained the most popular in world traffic to the site. Last Year, Twitter posted an interactive map of Tweets on New Year’s Day calling it an “epic Tweet Day”. It will be interesting to see what 2012 holds.

Project Bird Feeder Watch

It’s that time of year again in North America, Project Bird Feeder Watch for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.  It is a great opportunity for an easy to do citizen science activity.  Citizen scientists count the count the birds they see at their bird feeders. The data is used to map bird migration and bird populations.  Because it comes with a kit to do the bird count, there is a $15.00 participation fee which supports the project. Project Bird Feeder Watch has been around for more than 25 years making its data extremely important. You can explore some of the data and maps on their site.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada along with the Audubon Society are also sponsors of the Great Backyard Bird Count which starts in February and is free for participants. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a list of other citizen science projects that people might be interested in doing such as urban bird count, pigeon count, and migratory birds. Bird Studies Canada has citizen science projects such as The Christmas Bird Count, Canadian Migration Monitoring Network, and the nocturnal owl survey. I think these would be fantastic school, family, or even team-building exercises that involve geospatial data and the local community.

US World Regional Geography class gets a chance to Skype with Burmese activist Suu Kyi

Professor John Boyer’s World Regions class at Virginia Tech got an amazing opportunity yesterday evening to interview Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who is known the world over for her efforts as a pro-democracy activist in Myanmar (Burma). After Boyer and his class recorded a video interview request and posted it to YouTube, Suu Kyi agreed to the request and answered questions from students and the audience for about 45 minutes via Skype. Here’s local news coverage of the event and congratulations to Professor Boyer on an unbelievable experience for his students!

 

Kaggle

Kaggle is a website company that holds predictive modeling competitions for prize money. It’s premise is that there is a lot of data out there that needs to be analyzed and not enough skilled people to do it. They use crowd sourcing to attract smart competitors and interdisciplinary scientists from over 100 countries. Although they seem to have a math and statistics focus, many of their datasets are geospatial and could effectively be analyzed using geospatial approaches. This would be good for organizations with large geospatial datasets who want to host a competition through Kaggle’s Host-a-Competition wizard. You can also use Kaggle in the classroom . For example, a statistics class at Rice University used it to recommend jokes based on previously rated jokes.

Is Geography realism on greeting cards important?

A recent article in The Guardian, “Your Moons are Rubbish, Astronomer tells Christmas Card Artists“, by science Ian Sample was entertaining but also raised several serious scientific questions. Peter Barthel from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands wrote an article for the  journal Communicating Astronomy with The Public on astronomical realism in holiday cards.  He found that many cards depicted the moon in ways that were not realistic for the time of night being portrayed.  When asked “so what?”, he thinks that realism adds to instead of detracts from the wonder and “Moreover, understanding leads to knowledge which lasts”.

His remarks started me thinking about how geography is portrayed in greeting cards and what are the most common themes. The National Environmental Education Foundation has a good handout on the difference between the North Poles,  the Antarctic, the Artic and how polar bears and penguins don’t live together in the same place.  In order to conduct my own informal research, I went to Blue Mountain Cards and Hallmark Cards online to review all of their cards for geographic fallacies. I gave up after the first few pages because of the predominant lack of geography in the cards.