Hands-on with GIS

PUHI — Makani Brun was thrilled to be able to make a mountain and have the power to make it rain on that mountain.

“She could be here the whole day,” said Mahealani Contrades-Brun, Kalaheo Elementary School Parent Community Networking coordinator, and Makani’s mother. “She is really into technology and doesn’t want to leave.”

Brun, a student at the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, was enjoying the Augmented Reality Sandbox constructed by the Kauai Community College Cognition Center and was joined by the giant traveling map on loan from the National Geographic Society through the courtesy of the MEDA Women in Technology Project.

“I took one of these Geographic Information Systems courses,” said Major Victor Aguilar, director of the Waimea High School JrROTC program. “The software is free, you just need to build it. But we can use these programs for some of the JrROTC training programs like creating topographic maps.”

Brian Yamamoto of the Cognition Center said the program involves depth and height sensoring and the projector emits the proper signal marking different height levels. The students make it rain by creating a shadow over an area, and the projector shows water.

The open house at the Kauai Community College was intended to provide information about the professional opportunities available to those who receive training to become GIS analysts. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surveyors, cartographers, photogrammetrists, and surveying and mapping technicians is expected to grow through 2018.

Kauai Community College received a grant to develop new courses in geography and GIS. These science, technology, engineering and math-based courses will provide students with skills in demand.

Yamamoto said with the declining interest in geography, the GIS approach rekindles interest.

“This is hands-on,” said Annika Wilczewski, instructor for the GIS courses. “It combines technology with the traditional maps and this combination appeals to the young students who are very aware of technology.”

Lyn McNutt of Kauai Community College, said she has been involved with map-making for more than 30 years, and never imagined how technology could impact the craft.

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