Karl Chastko is a 4th year undergraduate student and ECCE Student Associate from the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University. You can follow Karl on Twitter @KarlChastko.

The GIS in Education and Research Conference held this past November at Hart House at the University of Toronto was a great chance to see the exciting GIS research being conducted across the country at various universities. This conference also hosted a number of technical workshops related to Web app development and integrating R into your GIS research. As a soon-to-be graduate, this event was a great way to gain insight into the type of research opportunities available at different universities as well as right here at McMaster.

The day started off with an address from Dr. Michael Goodchild about the importance of geospatial literacy in the world of GPS, Web maps, and big data. I found his speech particularly interesting because of how much we rely on spatial data in our day-to-day lives. If you are unfamiliar with projections, it’s easy to misinterpret a map and what is being conveyed in an image. Teaching geospatial literacy is probably more important now than ever before because of the increasing availability of maps and spatial data.

Karl Chastko attending the GIS in Education and Research Conference.

Following Dr. Goodchild’s opening remarks were a number of paper presentations and workshops. I was able to attend the geodesign paper session, which included presentations focused on 3D GIS applications for urban development and modelling. I particularly enjoyed a presentation by several York University students about developing an app for choosing safe paths across campus at night that are well lit. This project was a great application of GIS which could be expanded to other campuses as well as neighborhoods with relative ease.

In the afternoon, I attended the Web app development workshop hosted by Krista Amolins of the Education and Research group at Esri Canada which demonstrated how easy it is to develop custom apps using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. As someone with relatively little knowledge of programming, I found this workshop to be a great way to ease myself into app development, and it has given me the confidence to start experimenting on my own. I look forward to applying these skills in the ECCE App Challenge later this year.

All in all, this was a great conference and a nice chance to meet other GIS users and students working to design a better world.