It’s here! It’s here!

The Covington News - - Local news - Terri Kim­ble Colum­nist Terri Kim­ble is the 4H Ed­u­ca­tor for Newton County 4-H. She can be reached at (770) 7842010.

It’s here! It’s here! The ESRI box’s here! The ESRI box’s here!

We’re some­body now! Mil­lions of peo­ple look at maps ev­ery day!

We’re on the map! Things are go­ing to start hap­pen­ing to us now!

The UPS man was not far be­hind me as we re­turned to work through the snow on Thurs­day.

The box he de­liv­ered made me feel like Steve Martin’s char­ac­ter in “ The Jerk” when he gets ex­cited over the new phone book.

ESRI makes map soft­ware.

But be­fore you think these are just any maps, let me start at the be­gin­ning.

Al­most three years ago, an eighth grade stu­dent, Ken Gal­loway, told me he wanted to do some­thing more in his 4-H com­puter project.

I sug­gested a few ideas and he chose to learn about geo­graphic po­si­tion­ing sys­tems (GPS).

We bor­rowed a few hand­held GPS units, reg­is­tered at www. geo­caching.com, down­loaded co­or­di­nates for lo­cal “ hid­den trea­sures,” and set off in the 4-H van.

We had a lot of fun on our high-tech trea­sure hunt but knew that the same technology was be­ing used by our lo­cal govern­ment to do more than just hide prizes all over town.

Lynn Parham with the Newton County-City of Cov­ing­ton geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tems (GIS) depart­ment and her en­tire depart­ment of­fered to be­come 4-H vol­un­teers so Ken could in­tern over the sum­mer to learn a big­ger ap­pli­ca­tion of the tech­nol- ogy.

Af­ter his first year’s ex­pe­ri­ence, Ken pre­sented his fresh­man 4-H demon­stra­tion on how GPS works.

The judges didn’t seem fa­mil­iar with the technology, and their ques­tions were a lit­tle vague, so Ken came back with a mis­sion: find out why GPS mat­ters.

What he learned was that it isn’t just the GPS technology, telling us where on Earth we are, that mat­tered, but how we use it in a larger con­text.

GIS is where you take all the data and turn it into some­thing more use­ful.

The lo­cal GIS depart­ment uses ESRI soft­ware to com­pile data such as busi­ness and home lo­ca­tions, school bus routes, pop­u­la­tion statis­tics, waste wa­ter sys­tem lo­ca­tions, park maps and zon­ing in­for­ma­tion to be able to cre­ate in­ter­ac­tive maps.

Imag­ine be­ing able to gen­er­ate a map which shows the con­cen­tra­tion of youth in each com­mu­nity and where parks and play­grounds are lo­cated.

You could plan where fu­ture parks are needed, or even com­pare it against things like crimes com­mit­ted by mi­nors to see if there is a cor­re­la­tion.

If you col­lect and en­ter the data, you could use GIS to cre­ate maps for all types of re­ally in­ter­est­ing re­search.

A year ago, lo­cally pro­duced GIS maps ac­cu­rately pre­dicted flood wa­ters within 6 inches.

While this means that we can help pro­tect peo­ple and prop­erty in a flood, it also means we can bet­ter plan for floods and in turn pro­tect our wa­ter sup­ply even dur­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

It was no sur­prise that Ken’s sopho­more project on how GIS im­pacts our lives and fu­ture wa­ter qual­ity made a big im­pres­sion on the district and state judges.

You may have seen a sim­i­lar pre­sen­ta­tion on the lo­cal cable chan­nel dur­ing GIS week in Oc­to­ber, pre­sented by our lo­cal GIS depart­ment and 4-H’er Ken Gal­loway.

With Ken’s project work and the sup­port of the GIS depart­ment, we de­cided it was fi­nally time to ap­ply for a big grant of­fered by ESRI, the soft­ware com­pany.

The week af­ter Christ­mas, word came via e-mail: we were awarded the grant!

This grant of soft­ware and ed­u­ca­tion tools cou­pled with the sup­port of Lynn Parham and the en­tire GIS depart­ment means 4-H youth this year will put us on the map — lit­er­ally.

They’ll learn, not in the­ory but in the field, how to use and ap­ply geospa­tial technology to make maps that make a dif­fer­ence.

Our 4-H revo­lu­tion this year is to help Newton County go green — make maps that help you to shop at places with healthy food op­tions, to ex­er­cise at lo­cal parks and recre­ation lo­ca­tions, and to buy lo­cally so we can re­duce our car­bon foot­print.

It’s a big project, but this morn­ing’s de­liv­ery made me as ex­cited to get started as Martin’s char­ac­ter in the movie:

“ It’s here! It’s here! The ESRI box’s here!”

Join our revo­lu­tion and let’s get on the map.

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