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GIS Day offers students a new view of the world

Posted 11/14/2008

Local students will get a taste of mapmaking, geography and rocket launching Saturday (Nov. 15) as the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program celebrates GIS Day with a three-hour program at the Livestock Events Center Pavilion.

About a dozen students from 9-15 years old have already signed up for the 9 a.m. program, which is part of an international grassroots effort to promote geographic literacy in schools and communities.

Children who didn’t sign up ahead of time can still participate by showing up at the event, 4-H program assistant Cindy Smullen said.

The international GIS Day is actually Nov. 19 but Smullen scheduled Washoe County’s celebration of the event on Saturday so more students could participate. Events are scheduled in 72 countries and all 50 states in the U.S.

"It’s a great way for kids to gain an appreciation of geography and the technology we use to understand it," Smullen said.

During the session in Washoe County, participants will make maps, find geographical points of interest on a computer using the Nevada State 4-H Mobile Technology Lab, use portable GPS units to find preset coordinates and launch a two-foot rocket in the parking lot. The rocket will contain marbles representing a typical rocket’s satellite payload.

"The idea is to help kids understand how geography and global positioning affects our everyday life," Smullen said. "Satellites orbiting the earth allow our phones to work and provide technology for our cars and other uses."

Smullen stressed that participants don’t have to have any special training to enjoy the program. She said the program is part of the 4-H’s efforts to include science, math and geography in its programs.

"Those skills are going to be so important for people to have in the future," she said.

GIS Day is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, the United States Geological Survey, The Library of Congress, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and ESRI, a company that designs geographic information system technology.

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