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Cuyamaca College, Helix Charter High School Hosting GIS Day

In celebration of GIS Day, an event highlighting Geographic Information Systems technology, Cuyamaca College and Helix Charter School in La Mesa are co-hosting “GIS – Designing our Future.”

Ever wonder how your car or smart phone is able to pinpoint your location through GPS navigation? Or how your local supermarket is able to track your purchases and knows what coupons to send you to entice future buys?

In celebration of GIS Day, a global event for users of Geographic Information Systems technology to highlight such real-world applications as mapping and marketing, Cuyamaca College and Helix Charter School in La Mesa are co-hosting a local demonstration event, “ GIS  –  Designing our Future,”  from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Cuyamaca College Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

High school students from Helix Charter School’s AutoCAD classes will showcase projects that have incorporated GIS, such as a business model project  that utilized downloaded demographic data to pinpoint the optimal location, and a geometry city project in which students constructed a 3D city, using GIS data for street and building placement . AutoCAD is a software application for computer-aided design and drafting.

Going global

Consumer advocate and perennial third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader is credited for first promoting GIS Day, which was introduced in 1999, and has grown to become an international forum to demonstrate the wide-scale use of GIS, which integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information.

 “The main goal of this event is to increase awareness and introduce the uses of GIS to the community, and to inspire teachers to find creative ways of incorporating the use of data into their curriculum,” said Tonette Salter, event coordinator.

Salter is the project director of Cuyamaca College’s Career and Technical Education-Teacher Pipeline Program, created to address the shortage of CTE teachers in California schools. With grant funding from the state, Cuyamaca partners with local schools to promote and recruit high school and college students to explore careers in CTE teaching, and also provides professional development to teachers.

Cuyamaca’s GIS Day event resulted from a Helix Charter School instructor attending a Cuyamaca College Teacher Pipeline workshop on using GPS in STEM (science, math, engineering and technology) classes.

“The instructor teaches AutoCAD and her students use GIS to create student projects,” Salter said. “She was so excited about the GPS workshop and wanted to know how we could work together on a future project. “

GIS courses are taught in the geography department at San Diego State University, as well as at Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges. Local high schools are beginning to incorporate GIS into their curricula. Santana High School, a Cuyamaca College partner in promoting green careers, plans to teach how GIS technology is applied in energy-related jobs and public utilities.

 “We need to prepare our students for the future and the future is using GIS technology,” said Cuyamaca College President Mark Zacovic.  “Educators need to incorporate the technology into their curriculum because GIS is being used by a wide spectrum of employers, who, in turn, are looking for workers with the skills set.”

Some ways that GIS is being used:

  • Assisting government and utility agencies in planning and engineering analysis
  • Retail marketing
  • Supporting emergency services, police departments, and fire departments in daily operations such as tracking crime or finding the shortest emergency routes

Salter said GIS Day is a segue into what’s coming next spring, when the district’s Continuing Education and Workforce Training program begins offering a non-credit, basic GIS course to the public. Additionally, the Teacher Pipeline Program is hoping to offer a professional development GIS Day to East County teachers next fall.

“But before going forward, we wanted to heighten the awareness of the community regarding GIS,” Salter said. “The GIS Day event at Cuyamaca aims to do just that.”

Cuyamaca College is at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in the community of Rancho San Diego. For further information about Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges, go to www.gcccd.edu

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