This is another guest post from Alysha van Duynhoven, who appeared recently in our blog describing her team’s experience in the App Challenge at SFU. As winners of the challenge her team (including Chris Yee and ECCE associate Anthony Lee) won a trip to the Esri User Conference in San Diego earlier this month.

The SFU team of Anthony Lee, Chris Yee, and myself were thrilled to learn that we won the 2018 App Challenge among the Esri Canada GIS Centres of Excellence across Canada. We were awarded the opportunity to attend this year’s Esri User Conference (Esri UC) in San Diego. With over 18,000 attendees, the Esri UC is the world’s largest GIS conference. We were fortunate to spend the week with other students and professionals who were as passionate about GIS as we are!

The team with Jack Dangermond.

Following the plenary sessions, we attended the Map Gallery Opening. It was fascinating to see the variety of work conducted using Esri software. Subsequent days of the conference consisted of sessions covering a diverse range of topics. The Esri Events mobile app helped profusely with planning and finding sessions in the massive San Diego Convention Center. With the multitude of technical workshops, user presentations, and the Expo, initially it was overwhelming!

I gravitated toward sessions dealing with spatial statistics, geoAI, and real-time GIS. I also enjoyed the demo theatre presentations in the Expo, which showcased methods and workflows in ArcGIS Pro. I found the copious Python examples and demonstrations throughout the sessions I attended helpful. I was particularly inspired by the examples in the technical sessions/demos in “GeoAI Deep Dive: Implementing Machine Learning Solutions with ArcGIS” and “ArcGIS API for Python: Integrating Machine Learning and Deep Learning.” It was incredible to hear speakers directly from the product teams who design and develop the tools in ArcGIS.

My favourite sessions were from the spatial statistics series with speaker Dr. Lauren Bennett and her team who works on the Spatial Statistics Toolbox at Esri. I appreciated the examples of methods available in the Space Time Pattern Mining and Spatial Statistics toolboxes. Among the demonstrations of software functionality in the session entitled “Spatial Data Mining II: A Deep Dive into Space-Time Analysis,” Dr. Bennett shared an anecdote about Dr. Waldo Tobler’s visit to the Esri Campus in Redlands, California. During his visit, she asked what he might change from “Tobler’s first law of geography.” His response included:

“… everything is related to everything else, but near and recent things are more related than distant things.”

Dr. Bennett knew how to captivate a room of GIS enthusiasts! She is also a fantastic role model for those looking to pursue careers in GIS and technology.

Meeting Dr. Lauren Bennett (Software Development Team Lead of the Spatial Statistics Team at Esri)

The SFU team was also invited to attend the Esri Science Symposium, where featured speaker Dr. Camilo Mora presented his work pertaining to climate change and loss of biodiversity as a result of human activities. His passion for creating a better future was conveyed through his engaging presentation. He showcased his works, forecasted “year of climate departure,” and the MoraLab Carbon Neutrality Challenge. Selected panelists were called to discuss these topics with Dr. Mora and the issues surrounding the implementation of mitigation practices.

Following the Science Symposium, we attended the Canada Night Celebration. Here, we met three of the Esri Canada App Challenge participants from the University of Waterloo team, Water3D, who won the 1st runner-up place in the 2018 competition. Their journey to the Esri UC is a whole blog post in itself that I encourage them to write about! Meeting them was a highlight of our trip as our groups had much in common. We discussed programming challenges we encountered during the competition, how we overcame them, and shared resources we found useful during our studies. In the final evening of the conference, we attended the California Night celebration in Balboa Park.

Esri Canada App Challenge contestants and coordinator at Canada Night. From left to right: Juan Carrillo, Stephanie Wen, Jaydeep Mistry (members of the Water3D team from the University of Waterloo), Dr. Michael Leahy (Esri Canada), Chris Yee, Alysha van Duynhoven, and Anthony Lee ( team from SFU).

We are thankful to the SFU ECCE, coordinated by Drs. Suzana Dragicevic and Shiv Balram, for managing the 2018 App Challenge teams from SFU. We are appreciative to the Esri Canada Higher Education group and the judges who selected us for the award. I was able to connect with other students pursuing graduate degree programs and am grateful for the advice they provided me as I embark on my own graduate studies adventure. Thank you especially to Dr. Michael Leahy for all the assistance provided prior to and during the trip. The SFU team is extremely grateful to have had this amazing opportunity to attend the Esri UC. Not only were the sessions and events informative and enjoyable, but being able to meet like-minded individuals from all over the world was invaluable.