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WSU to host GIS workshops to raise geography awareness

Date: 11/15/2011

Nov. 16, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD — Where in the world is Westfield State University (WSU) this week? It’s smack in the middle of a movement to raise public awareness of how geography, and in particular, the information people get from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) impact their everyday lives.

“Geography is not in the 1950s anymore ... we are not memorizing the atlas anymore. Modern 21st century geography asks why things are located where they are and how are they connected and change over time,” Dr. Carsten Braun, a geography and regional planning and environmental science professor at WSU, told Reminder Publications. “A GIS allows anyone to ask these questions and get quantitative answers – and make beautiful maps along the way.”

To illustrate how GIS information impacts people every day, Braun and WSU are inviting the public to two days of workshops highlighting GIS technology. On Nov. 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. and again on Nov. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m., Braun will present informal workshops on how to use Google Earth to create 3D maps with embedded videos and photographs.

The workshops will take place in Bates Hall, and reservations are requested, as the room has a limited number of computers available. Email Braun at cbraun@westfield.ma.edu to check availability of seats. Braun said high school students, teachers and administrators are “especially welcome” to attend.

During the day on Nov. 17, WSU will also host a Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Treasure Hunt on campus from noon to 5 p.m., and a GIS Center Open House in Bates Hall from 3 to 5 p.m.

By hosting these events, WSU joins more than 10,000 organizations and 80 countries that host local GIS Day events to highlight how this technology — easily accessible to everyone through GPS, Google Earth and Smart Phones — can be applied to everyday life.

“A good example were the power outage maps we saw on TV after the [Oct. 29] snowstorm,” Braun said, adding that the “color coded city lines and the colors that showed the percentage of customers without power” were all created using GIS technology.

“I hope that folks realize that this technology is already part of our daily lives and that we can, fairly easily, use this technology ourselves,” Braun said. “GIS and the related technologies are cool and fun to use and give us a way to [look at the world]. Hopefully, we’ll get folks interested in geography and regional planning.”

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at debbieg@thereminder.com

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