By Jim Albert
Recently I gave a series of presentations to local east Tennessee schools, learning centers, and a Veterans outreach program. The purpose of these presentations was to give an introduction to Geographic Information System (GIS) and to show how GIS is used across a wide variety of careers. Due to the range in ages, I tailored each presentation based on grade level and relevance. For the 5th grade STEM students at the Middlesettlements Elementary School in Louisville, TN, and 7th grade STEM students at the Union Grove Middle School in Friendsville, TN, I gave an introduction on the field of GIS, but my primary focus was to stress the importance of geography and technology in their educations. The students and teachers were interested in the topic, and asked great questions about the GIS field.
I took a different approach for the 11th and 12th grade AP Physics class at the Jefferson County High School and the cyber security team at the L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville, TN. I wanted them to understand no matter what field they pursued in college, they would benefit by taking some GIS courses. To drive home the point, I demonstrated how GIS is used in the meteorology, engineering, forestry, defense, law enforcement, and heath care fields, just to name a few. I also handed out information on Geocaching to all the students I met. Geocaching is like an outdoor treasure hunt where students navigate to the various sites using their smartphones. Geocaching gives them the opportunity to see GIS technology used in a real world environment.
For the Drafting and Design students at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Morristown, TN and the career counselors and members of the Veterans Upward Bound Program at the University of Tennessee CAPS outreach center, I stressed the importance of supplementing their training with GIS courses to make them a more attractive hire for perspective employers. The career counselors at the Veterans Program work with local veterans to help them transition to civilian careers after they are discharged from the military. I was fortunate to meet a veteran that was accepted into the forestry program at the University of Tennessee. She valued the information I presented and easily saw the relationship between forestry and GIS in her program.
GIS is a relatively new field so I was not surprised that most of the educators, students, and councilors that I met had little or no knowledge of what GIS is or what it does. After learning the value of GIS and the potential career possibilities from my presentation, the educators and councilors asked if I could do the presentation annually for incoming students and veterans. Through my presentations, I attempted to simplify GIS by showing the benefit of becoming a part of it because the technology is all around us.