Albany's ANZAC legend inspires student innovation

Aug 22, 2011

Albany's rich ANZAC history has inspired a group of students from John Calvin School to create an interactive map honouring the city's fallen World War I heroes.

Using state-of-the-art Geographic Information System (GIS) technology donated by mapping specialists Esri Australia, the Year 10 society and environment students are combining a map of Albany's ‘Avenue of Honour’ with images and stories of the 178 soldiers it commemorates.

The final product will be entered into the national 2011 Spatial Technology in Schools (STiS) competition, which invites primary and high school students to use their creativity to take on a real-life GIS project.

GIS is a sophisticated spatial technology that visually represents information on maps.

John Calvin School Society and environment teacher Andrew Vermeulen said his students wanted to create a long-lasting and valuable resource that was close to the community’s heart.

“Albany was the departure point for more than 30,000 Australian soldiers who headed for Gallipoli in 1914 and the first ANZAC dawn service was held here,” Mr Vermeulen said.

“The STiS competition is an opportunity to share some of that amazing history with the community using the power of GIS technology and world-leading software generously donated by Esri Australia.”

Mr Vermeulen said users would initially view a map of the Avenue of Honour, but would be able to switch on and off layers of information about soldiers by clicking on their individual plaques.

“We plan on including soldiers’ personal backgrounds, military information, and details about the battles they fought and died in,” Mr Vermeulen said.

“Each of our students is responsible for gathering as much information as they can on three or four soldiers, and we have been out on site, taking pictures of the plaques and also mapping them using location identifying technology.

“In September we have a class trip to Canberra, where we’ll visit the Australian War Memorial and gather more information.”

Coordinated by the Western Australian Land Information System (WALIS), the STiS competition introduces students and teachers from schools across Australia to GIS technology and methodologies under the guidance of an industry mentor.

STiS competition mentor and Esri Australia Manager – Western Australia Tom Gardner said the aim of the competition was to get kids enthused and interested in spatial sciences.

“We want to get the kids engaged in how GIS can be applied in many exciting ways that are relevant to their lives and the lives of others,” Mr Gardner said.

“As they develop their projects they begin to appreciate that location is a common factor in decision-making and problem solving in almost everything we do.

“Along the way they develop their analytical and critical thinking skills, learn how to research and source information and bring it all together to solve a problem.”

Mr Gardner said the practical focus of the competition opened students to the potential of spatial technology as they developed their own project from start to finish.

“The projects are very hands-on – first they identify a problem, and then figure out what information they need to solve or test it,” Mr Gardner said.

“They then gather the data and using the software provided by Esri Australia, they can see correlations and patterns which might otherwise be missed.

“It’s through this identification of patterns that they gain a better understanding and appreciation of what is possible with GIS technology.”