Rural high school kicks off project to develop Geographical Information System (GIS) maps

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“I have a student who’s really not interested in much of anything,” said a teacher at Smithville High School (SHS), located in a rural Central Texas city. “But as he researched the ESRI GIS project we will be starting soon, he got very excited. He was ready to start and learn more.”   The teacher was surprised by the student’s reaction to the GIS software, because she can hardly ever get any response out of him. She couldn’t wait to tell others about his reaction. “It was great to see how interested he was,” she added.

The teacher was referring to a Geographical Information System (GIS) computer technology project the school has kicked off with its partner Technology For All’s Rural Texas and San Antonio (RTSA) office.

The GIS software allows users to create and view all types of geographical data, typically displayed through a map-based system. SHS is partnering with the RTSA office to implement GIS projects created by high school students through different classes such as digital media and geography. These projects will focus on delivering information about the Smithville area, such as the impact of last year’s Bastrop Complex wildfire on the community, agricultural data, and movies/TV shows/commercials filmed in the area.

The students will start working on the Smithville-oriented maps during the spring semester, completing them by late May.

ESRI, a leader in the field of GIS, donated copies of its software and documentation to the Texas Connects Coalition (TXC2) for distribution to schools and organizations throughout its service area; Technology for All leads the TXC2 Coalition. According to ESRI’s website, “ESRI inspires and enables people to positively impact the future through a deeper, geographic understanding of the changing world around them.”

Since Smithville Independent School District serves the community where the RTSA office is based, it was selected as the pilot site for the GIS rollout project. RTSA staff met with school administrators to discuss what GIS is, how it can be incorporated into the high school curriculum, and what careers and opportunities exist for students that want to pursue GIS studies. Other school districts in the area will be targeted for future projects.

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Media Contacts: TFA-Smithville: Fran Hunter, Fran.Hunter@techforall.org, (512) 237-7025

Technology For All (TFA) is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to empower under-resourced communities through the tools of technology. TFA creates educational, economic and personal opportunities for low-income and rural persons with local community-based organizations, corporations, foundations, technology providers and public entities. TFA’s offices are located in Houston’s East End at 2220 Broadway, Houston, Texas 77012 (713-454-6400) and at 111 Main Street, Smithville, Texas 78957 (512-237-7025). For more information, call or visit www.techforall.org.

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