It’s here! It’s here!
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.