Thursday, 20 December 2007

GIS Day @ KU

The ASPRS Student Chapter at the University of Kansas, the Mount Oread Geospatial Technologies Club, focuses nearly all of its efforts on our annual GIS Day @ KU celebration. This year marked our seventh annual GIS Day @ KU and each year the event has been better organized, better attended, and more useful to undergraduate and graduate students. The GIS Day Planning Committee is chaired by a graduate student and composed of several undergraduate and graduate volunteers as well as several professors who serve as advisers. Several dedicated university employees also contribute to the committee. We collected funds from various departments and programs across campus who utilize GIS in their research or classrooms. This year, donating departments consisted of the Department of Geography, the Kansas Biological Survey, the Data Access and Support Center (DASC) of the Kansas Geospatial Community Commons, the Institute for Policy and Social Research, the KU Libraries, the KU Transportation Institute, the KU Biodiversity Institute, and the Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS). The Coca Cola company, via a contractual relationship with the university, also donated money and beverages. Most of these are repeat donors who support GIS Day @ KU every year. We also benefit from a close association with the Kansas GIS Policy Board, which allows us, among other things, to send emails to many state and local GIS agencies and government groups.

In the early stages of planning, we select a theme for our GIS Day. This year we focused on open-source and web-based GIS applications. We select guest speakers based on their expertise and knowledge of the theme. We also sponsor a student GIS presentation competition where students from KU and other schools (this year we had students from Haskell Indian Nations University and Baker University) are able to present their research. About half of participants come from outside of geography departments. Prizes this year were $250, $150 and $100 for first, second and third places.

GIS Day @ KU is a big deal. This year, we had 196 people pre-register. Due to the hard work and programming expertise of Xan Wedel, of the Institute for Policy and Social Research at KU, registrants entered their information on our event website and their location appeared on a mashup of Google Maps. Attendees were plotted based on whether they were from academia, private business, government, non-profit or if they were a guest speaker. You can see the map here. A Google Maps mashup was also used to direct attendees from the parking lot to the event, as seen here.

When attendees arrived, they were greeted by a group of student volunteers who issued them a preprinted name tag and provided them with an agenda of the day's events. They were then directed to a parlor, which contained the Information and Job Fair as well as coffee, juice, bagels and pastries. This is the first year that we have organized an Information and Job Fair. Not only did the Fair allow students to meet with local and national GIS related businesses and share their resumes, it also helped us cover the costs of GIS Day @ KU since participating agencies were charged a nominal fee. Participating agencies included:

Western Air Maps
Spatial Data Research
Bartlett & West
Garmin International Inc.
MJ Hardin
Kansas Biological Survey
Haskell Indian Nations University

At 9:00 a.m. Joshua Campbell, geography graduate student and this year's planning committee chair, started GIS Day @ KU with some opening remarks. After his brief introduction participants listened to talks from Goeff Zeiss, Director of Technology at Autodesk; Brian Timoney, Founder of the Timoney Group; Andrew Turner, Founder of Mapufacture and author of 'Introduction to Neogeography'; and Jeremy Bartley, ArcGIS Server Developer Team, ESRI. The presentations of all of these speakers are available on our website. The planning committee has worked with various departments and programs on campus throughout the history of GIS Day @ KU and through their generous support, we were able to cover the airfares, hotel expenses, and food costs of all of our guest speakers.

Following these speakers, we broke for lunch. Then, from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m., attendees watched the Student Research Presentation Competition. This consisted of 8 student presentations about their own research. Presentations were limited to 8 minutes with a 2 minute question and answer period. A list of this years' winners, and all of the student presentations, are available on our competition website found at the link above.

After the student competition, we listened to presentations by Aimee Stewart, Systems Programmer at the KU Biodiversity Institute; Professor Nathaniel Brunsell, professor in Atmospheric Studies and Geography at KU; and Jude Kastens, Research Assistant at the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing (KARS) program. Their presentations are also available on the GIS Day @ KU website. The formal event ended around 5:00 p.m. but the celebration continued at Free State Brewing Company.

GIS Day @ KU has been a great way to unite the local GIS community and increase awareness of GIS in university departments other than geography. It has also served to mentor undergraduate students by developing working relationships between them and graduate students. This relationship helps to ensure continuity of GIS Day @ KU planning into the future. Our event started small, but has had continued support and has grown to a nearly $5,000 event with over 200 participants. One great benefit to this years' event was listening to speakers talk about the future of GIS web-based applications. Many of these speakers made suggestions to faculty regarding changes to class offerings that would better prepare students for the workplace. If anyone has any questions regarding GIS Day @ KU, please feel free to contact Jonathan Thayn.

During Geography Week, the KU GeoClub sponsors a Globe-O-Mania Trivia Bowl, which is also a great idea for an ASPRS student chapter interested in increasing geography awareness at their university.


josh sisskind said...

Any suggestions on locking in corporations to come to campus for a GIS Day/Event?


Joshua Sisskind
M.A. Geography Candidate
University at Albany
Albany, New York

Signature said...

Sorry that it has taken me so long to respond. I think that the best option is to look for corporations that are as local as possible. Also, to approach those that already have ties to the university. For example, we first talked to corps. that were on the GIS policy board or who had representation of our geography department's advisory board.

The big draw for corporations is to recruit students who are about to graduate. Make sure they have a good idea of how many GIS/geography students will be passing by their booth and they should be pretty quick to get on board.