Wash­ing­ton Col­lege stu­dents hold ‘map-athon’

Kent County News - - NEWS - By LEANN SCHENKE lschenke@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CH­ESTER­TOWN — You would not nor­mally ex­pect to find col­lege stu­dents host­ing a party where they cre­ate maps, but, on Satur­day, a group of about 20 Wash­ing­ton Col­lege stu­dents gath­ered to do just that.

Erica McMaster, who is the Ge­o­graphic In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems di­rec­tor for the col­lege, said the “Miss­ing Maps” map-athon is hosted an­nu­ally by the GIS de­part­ment.

With mu­sic play­ing in the back­ground and plenty of snacks and pizza, stu­dents gath­ered in the Gold­stein Hall from 2 to 5 p.m. to use sup­plied in­for­ma­tion to lo­cate roads or struc­tures on a satel­lite map and man­u­ally “map out” ar­eas in Uganda and Tan­za­nia.

“Each year, dis­as­ters around the world kill nearly 100,000 and af­fect or dis­place 200 mil­lion peo­ple. Many of the places where these dis­as­ters oc­cur are lit­er­ally ‘ miss­ing’ from any maps and first re­spon­ders lack the in­for­ma­tion to make valu­able de­ci­sions re­gard- ing re­lief ef­forts,” the Miss­ing Maps web­site states.

McMaster said no ex­pe­ri­ence is needed to map­ping out these ar­eas. She said about 20 per­cent of the stu­dents who at­tended did not have any prior ex­pe­ri­ence in map­ping.

El­yse Brew­ing­ton, who is a ju­nior at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege, said she wanted to spend her day map­ping af­ter hear­ing about the project in her so­ci­ol­ogy class.

She said, while it was her first time map­ping, the pro- cess was not too dif­fi­cult to get a hold of.

Dur­ing the map-athon Satur­day, the stu­dents worked to map ar­eas af­fected by vi­o­lence against women or ebola. McMaster said these ar­eas need maps for health­care work­ers and po­lice to be able to ac­cess them faster.

McMaster said stu­dents start by “trac­ing satel­lite im­agery” onto a data­base called OpenStreetMap, which is sim­i­lar to that of Google Maps.

The stu­dents would then add de­tails to the maps by iden­ti­fy­ing neigh­bor­hoods, street names and evac­u­a­tion cen­ters.

McMaster said any­one can map in their free time. The map-athon par­ties are or­ga­nized to raise aware- ness for the need to map lo­ca­tions.

She said stu­dents re­ceive about 40 min­utes of train­ing be­fore start­ing the map­ping process, with in­struc­tors on hand to help if needed. In the about an hour of map­ping the stu­dents had put in, McMaster said the ar­eas the stu­dents were work­ing on went from less than 2 per­cent mapped to 19 per­cent.

“It doesn’t have to be an es­tab­lished group of peo­ple map­ping,” McMaster said. “It can be vol­un­teers or any­one who wants to help.”

PHO­TOS BY LEANN SCHENKE

Wash­ing­ton Col­lege stu­dents work to map ar­eas in Uganda and Tan­za­nia on Satur­day dur­ing the col­lege’s Ge­o­graphic In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems’ “Miss­ing Maps” map-athon.

El­yse Brew­ing­ton, a ju­nior at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege, shows an area in Uganda she is work­ing on map­ping out Satur­day dur­ing the col­lege’s “Miss­ing Map” map-athon.

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