GIS Day shows advantages of mapping tool

Dr. Steven M. Graves professor of geography at California State University -Northridge one of the speakers of GIS Day Agenda event speaks about Power of Maps and GIS in the Great Hall at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Nov.13, 2012. Photo by Fariba Molavi

As part of the worldwide Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day celebrations, Pierce College students gathered in the Great Hall on Nov. 13 to hear presenters speak about the technology, which is used to create maps and charts.

“This is the second year that we’re doing the event,” said Adrian Youhanna, an assistant professor of geography. “We have a GIS program at Pierce and we offer a skills certificate program, so it’s to draw to attention the program and basically to this technology.”

The event included presentations regarding thermal sensing, linguistics, crime analysis and even the property values of homes located near synagogues – all used to demonstrate the numerous and diverse ways GIS can be used.

“The idea behind the event is to show students from various different disciplines or majors that they can use this tool – this skill set – and apply it to their own field, to their own interests,” said  Youhanna.

Steve Graves, a professor of geography at the California State University, Northridge, gave a presentation on how GIS can be used to identify and analyze health disparities, telling attendees that geography is much more than simply memorization.

“I’m not sure I even know the capital of North Dakota. It doesn’t even matter,” he told the crowd.

“The public school system of the state of California I think does a poor job of explaining or teaching geography as it should be taught,” he said. “This is an opportunity to come and explain how it’s a problem solving tool, rather than just a bunch of facts to be memorized.”

Other presentations were given by Tim Smith of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Rebecca Nagy of the Los Angeles Police Department and two Pierce students currently enrolled in the school’s GIS certification program.

“They like us a lot. The fire department really likes GIS,” said Smith, a GIS manager, to the audience.

David Wilcox, one of the student presenters, gave a proposal for the locations of electric car charging stations.

“Overall it was a good turnout, and the speakers were really good,” he said. “There’s a variety of different jobs, so you can see the opportunities you have with GIS.”

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Written by Gonzalo Rey

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