High School students pitch geospatial-assisted research at NGA’s GIS fair
From finding the perfect tennis site in Fairfax County to analyzing crime rates in Mexico — students from three area high schools presented diverse findings as part of the GIS Fair, May 1, at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Springfield, Virginia headquarters.
The annual event is coordinated through NGA’s Partners in Education program and is an opportunity for students to present research in front of NGA geospatial-intelligence professionals. This is NGA’s fifth year hosting the event.
“We are cultivating the future workforce,” said Brittany Reid, NGA’s Partners in Education lead. “Students can make a connection here today and keep these contacts for the future.”
The three participating high schools were South Lakes High School, Herndon High School and Robert E. Lee High School. The students are a part of the Geospatial Semester, which partners high schools in Virginia and the department of integrated science and technology at James Madison University. High school students may obtain college credit upon completion.
“The geospatial semester provides a unique dual environment experience via a partnership between Virginia high schools,” said Kathryn Keranen, an instructor in integrated science and technology at JMU who along with JMU professor Bob Koloord started the initiative in 2005. “It is designed to introduce students to geospatial technology and to solve local problems of interest.”
The program started with four schools and has grown to 25. Since its inception more than 3,500 students have participated.
GIS — or geographic information system — is a tool used for gathering, managing and analyzing data. Students used multiple GIS platforms for their research and presented it to 20 NGA judges during the daylong event.
The feedback from the NGA judges is a valuable resource for students as they build presentation skills, said Rebecca Gentry, a Herndon High School teacher.
“To get that outside perspective — to get that validation on your research makes it all very real for the students,” said Gentry.
Students were given the opportunity to choose their own research topic for the presentation.
Aidan Robinson, a senior at South Lakes High School, conducted an analysis of “location for extraction of materials on Mars.”
“I learned a lot on GIS in general along with how much work goes into all of the associated analysis,” said Robinson.
Mia Markeloff, a senior at Herndon High School, studied potential volcano eruption effects.
“It’s been a great experience to work with the program, and then come in here and get feedback,” she said.
Riley Peake, an education representative from ESRI, the company that develops the mapping software the students used for their projects, said the students really grasped the application of the software for their research.
“It’s been nothing but impressive,” said Peake. “The students are thinking as critically about their projects and about their community.”