By John Curran
Elm Staff Writer
Beyond the scope of its own students, Washington College has an obligation to the broader Chestertown community. One way the College connects to their community is through the new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program for local students funded by the Verizon Foundation.
This program, called the Mathematics, Engineering, Technology, and Science (METS) Guild of Chestertown focuses on bringing middle school students experience working within topics related to GIS and digital technologies.
GIS, according to its webpage, “…was established in 2003 by Dr. John Seidel, director of the Center for Environment and Society, and is currently led by GIS Program Coordinator Stewart Bruce.” Today, GIS has nine full-time staff and 85 student apprentices and journeymen. Some examples of the type of projects the GIS is involved with include 3D and virtual worlds, environmental analysis, and historical geography.
According to Bruce, who also serves as coordinator of the METS Guild program, the program is focused very purposefully on middle school students. “This is the age group to reach to get them interested and excited about METS so they continue to develop their interests as they progress with their education,” he said. “Basically, the younger the student is the better, so as to foster a longer term interest. We need to get them hooked early,” he said.
Students, who have already been selected for this session, are commited to a 16-week long program. During this time, “students will go through an eight-week training program in the fall and then begin working on real projects for another eight weeks in the spring,” as described in a GIS press release.
Throughout the 16-week time period students focus on topics that are related to their METS track. “The web team will be building websites for small agriculture businesses in the area, the 3D and gaming track will be building out a virtual Chestertown based off our prototype sandbox model of the waterfront, and the GIS group will either be mapping land use in the Chester River watershed or quite possibly get drawn into our National Geo-spatial-intelligence Agency (NGA) and Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) work and do mapping work of Mumbai, India,” said Bruce. Students will have real-world interactions with agencies throughout the country.
The GIS METS Guild of Chestertown program is comprehensive while working in concert with traditional schooling. It is particularly beneficial to students interested in GIS related topics. “I think that any effort to provide supplemental METS opportunities is good for the students,” said Bruce, referring to the interaction between local schools and the GIS program. “The schools tend to be very structured, and the METS Guild does not have these restrictions. We have a lot of freedom to do things that the school can’t do,” he added.
According to Bruce, WC students and Elm readers will have to wait to see examples of the students’ finished projects. “You will have to wait until the end of the spring to see their finished guild products. We will have an open house for them as part of the Maryland STEM Festival.”
For more information on the METS Guild of Chestertown or GIS, look to the WC website or contact Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org.