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RU GIS Day enriches campus map with helpful detail

Volunteers monitor GIS Day date collection flow

Assistant Professor of Geospatial Science Andrew Foy (center) and  volunteers Conrad Lucas (left) and Daniel Honeycutt (right) monitor the inflow of data points from volunteers during International GIS Day on Nov. 20 as they mapped the Radford University campus.

Thanks to almost 50 volunteers, people across the world can now know the Radford University campus as well as those who study and work here daily.

On Wednesday in celebration of International Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day, the volunteers created a data-rich map of the RU campus in real-time using their mobile devices. Members of the Geography Club, the RU GIS Center and the department of geospatial science uploaded data about major and minor campus conveniences and landmarks.

"It is a nice way to help the community," said Jacob Levin, a junior geospatial science major. "And using the power of technology, all it takes is a few minutes to plot out a few points."

The first-ever event got off to a swift start as volunteer teams uploaded coordinates of over 100 points to a map hosted online in less than an hour. In total, the volunteers entered over 350 data points. The map, a basic street map of the campus and environs, is now enriched with locations of emergency call boxes, recycling boxes, food and dining establishments, handicap access ramps, art and historical landmarks among other features.

Daniel Honeycutt, a junior geospatial science major, was manning the server as the uploaded data popped up on the map.  ""There is a lot of data coming in.  Good data makes good maps and good mapping contributes to better knowledge of our campus and the environment as a whole."

Andrew Foy, assistant professor of geospatial science and director of the RU GIS center, likened today's event to the efforts occurring on the ground in the Philippines where volunteers armed with mobile technology are assisting professionals with the delivery of aid and damage assessment in the wake of the recent typhoon. Foy described the process of GIS mapping for the day as collecting, sharing and publishing data by way of the cloud or web to leverage computing power, access and storage.

"This is citizen involvement helping people," he said. "The best way to get stuff people like and need on our maps is to send them out to do it. It is empowering."

International GIS Day is an annual global event for users of GIS technology to educate their communities about how geography makes a difference and to demonstrate the technology. GIS technology represents computer software, data and solutions that are used for capturing, analyzing and displaying geographically referenced information.

"As a group, we can generate more data faster than an individual researcher and it is nice to help," said Kieran Blakemore, a senior geospatial science major.  Blakemore was teamed with Daniel Riegel, another senior who is majoring in both geospatial science and anthropology. He added: "I like fieldwork and it is different for me today, being focused on the here-and-now as opposed to the past."

Nov 25, 2013