The Importance of Celebrating GIS Day

Each year, the AssetWorks team celebrates GIS Day with in-office parties, lunch and learn presentations and plenty of laughter. This year, GIS Day looks different for the AssetWorks team. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our offices are closed, with teams working remotely. While we can’t celebrate GIS Day as we typically would this year, we do believe in the importance of celebrating the men and women of GIS and the many ways GIS benefits our society.

To help us focus on the importance of celebrating GIS Day, AssetWorks’ own Chris Brussow, an avid participant in and advocate for GIS Day, wrote about his experience celebrating GIS Day with elementary school students in Utah.

The Importance of Celebrating GIS Day to Chris Brussow:

Each year for the past 10 years I have worked with elementary school aged children, 4th grade through 6th grade, to bring awareness of GIS to students of primarily underserved schools. The format of the program is four 20 minutes sessions with lunch in between. The kids arrive by bus and attend the four sessions in succession. Busses are sponsored by GIS Day, so this is a free field trip for the schools.

The theme of the last few years was Pokémon Go (remember that game?). At each station, GIS professionals would present a topic related to GIS and mapping.

Last year, we built a simulated DEM (Digital Elevation Model) on the floor with a taped grid and used boxes to represent elevations. One of the boxes had a stuffed animal hidden at a certain coordinate with certain attributes to the box. It is a lot of fun to watch the children work through geographic data to determine where a Pokémon, like Psyduck, is hiding.

We simulated a data collection project with the Collector App, where the kids answered geographic attribute questions and entered their data into the app on an iPad (remember when we could share iPads?). This data was then projected on the wall on a large world map in real-time, so the students could see the effects of data collection on a map.

My favorite module was one I helped to design. The kids used wireless devices to fill out a Survey123 form and then the data was mapped on ArcGIS Online (AGOL).  The result of the survey determined what the furthest places from home the children had traveled, where they were born and where they would go if they could go anywhere in the world.


As a diehard geographer, I was admittedly saddened by a few of the responses when some of the kids had not been further than a few miles from home (some were at the furthest location they had been, just attending the conference). Other kids’ “dream” destinations were Provo, Utah (46 miles south of Salt Lake City). The redemption was watching the faces of the children when we were able to demonstrate the spatial relationships of different cities and countries. Watching their eyes get wide as we “flew” from city to city in a high detail aerial photographs, showing them how far it was to Paris, Disneyland, New York City, Hawaii and China was very rewarding.

Only a few kids still wanted to visit Provo as a dream destination after our demonstration, preferring Paris or one of the Disney parks, after seeing them spatially (remember when you could travel?).

Bringing the awareness to young minds is what GIS Day is all about. Experiencing the globe and opening the world to someone’s awareness, for perhaps the first time, is exhilarating and heartwarming.

GIS Day, to me, is about much more than the technical aspects of GIS, it is about looking at the world in a different way and showing someone who might not have had the opportunity yet to see what the world looks like on a larger scale with no boundaries. Showing children that the world is much, much bigger than the boundaries of their home, school and the grocery store is so important. Quite literally, expanding a child’s horizons is very rewarding.

About the author: Chris Brussow is a Senior Implementation Consultant for AssetWorks EAM. Specializing in GIS technology, Chris graduated from the University of Utah with degrees in Geography and Emergency Management and a GIS certificate. In addition, he earned the IAM Certified Asset Manager certificate in 2016. Over the last 11 years, he has worked in the GIS-centric asset management industry in software and implementation and had attended the Esri conference every year since 2008 – but that streak sadly came to an end this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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