Washington College students hold ‘map-athon’
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.”
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.