Gifted students cache in on GIS technology comp

Dec 06, 2012

An award-winning group of gifted year seven students from Perth's northern suburbs have partnered with Australia's largest intelligent mapping company to tap into a world-wide, high-tech treasure-hunt that promotes healthy outdoor living for kids.

The Primary Extension and Challenge (PEAC) program students won the Middle School section of the Spatial Technology in Schools (STiS) competition, in which schoolkids use intelligent mapping technology to solve a real-life problem, with the guidance of an industry mentor.

Wanting to tackle the worrying trend of children spending more and more time playing indoors, the students turned to an emerging global phenomenon known as ‘geocaching’ – in which participants hide caches in secret locations for others to find using geography-based clues and technology.

For their project the North Metropolitan Education Region PEAC students used Geographic Information System (GIS) technology provided by industry specialists Esri Australia to identify locations for six caches that would encourage kids to play outdoors.

PEAC Coordinator Sabine Winton said the fun of geocaching combined with the challenge of using cutting-edge technology to solve a real-life problem appealed to the talented youngsters.

“Our team wanted to get kids participating in fun, outdoor physical activities and saw geocaching as a great solution,” Ms Winton said.

“We started by using GIS technology to create intelligent maps showing a range of information including parks, industrial and urban regions, environmentally sensitive and risky areas, and population densities.

“We then used the technology to analyse the maps to find the best and safest places to put our geocaches – choosing school areas and outdoor places where children would likely stay and play after finding a cache.”

The final locations the GIS technology identified for the caches include a local bike track, a park that is home to kangaroos, and a reserve filled with trees perfect for climbing.

Esri Australia’s STiS mentor Tom Gardner said the PEAC entry embodied the STiS competition’s aim to open youngsters to the world of spatial sciences and intelligent mapping.

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

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

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

“Through the competition, students learn 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 – as well get some experience using GIS technology, which is becoming a core business system for many organisations.”

Open to schools across Australia, the annual 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.

The PEAC students will be presented with their award at the Belridge PEAC Centre on Tuesday 11th December at 1.30pm.