Build a sustainable city and the scientists will come

Dec 06, 2012

Developers looking to build Western Australia's most sustainable city should start on the coast near Broome and populate it with scientists, according to an award-winning team of Perth high school students.

The year nine students from Hale School in Wembley Downs partnered with intelligent mapping experts Esri Australia to find the best location in W.A. for a town that could produce enough food and clean electricity to support at least 10,000 residents without relying on outside support.

This week their project won the High School section of the 2012 Spatial Technologies in Schools (STiS) competition, in which students use spatial thinking and GIS technology to solve a real-life issue with the help of an industry mentor.

Esri Australia’s Tom Gardner, who mentored the group, said by using intelligent mapping technology to analyse development data across the state, the students found the optimal location was a port town on the far north-west coast.

“The students looked at information – such as water availability and renewable energy generation – around the natural and man-made aspects required to support a completely self-sustaining town,” Mr Gardner said.

“Using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, they displayed this information as layers on a map of the state and analysed regions that matched set minimum standards, and excluded those that didn’t.

“The technology generated two ideal locations for a truly sustainable city: a spot in the far north-west, near Broome; and areas of the Great Sandy Desert.

“The area near Broome was the obvious choice because it is on the coast, which makes travel and importing and exporting easier, and is far more attractive and liveable for potential residents.

“The students also speculated on ideal citizens, concluding that scientists were preferable because they could further develop the city’s renewable energy systems.”

Mr Gardner said the Hale School project embodied the STiS competition’s aim to open youngsters to the world of spatial sciences.

“Maps have been the catalyst to some of the greatest stories and adventures in history because they have the power to guide and inspire,” Mr Gardner said.

“The evolution of GIS technology has added another dimension to maps and brought a cutting-edge world of geography and navigation to a new generation – which is what the competition is all about.

“We want to get schoolkids engaged in how GIS technology can be applied in exciting ways that are relevant to their lives and the lives of others.

“Through the competition, students learn that in almost everything we do location is a common factor in decision-making and problem solving.

“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.

“They also gain valuable practical experience using a technology that has become a core businesses system for thousands of organisations around the world.”

Open to schools across Australia, the STiS competition is coordinated by the Western Australian Land Information System (WALIS) and supported by Esri Australia, the market leader in the nation’s $2.1 billion spatial industry.