Point of Beginning

GIS Day Promotes Big Ideas

Events will take place around the globe on Nov. 20.

November 19, 2013

For Colin Gowens, this GIS Day will be bigger than ever.

It’s so big, that for the first time GIS Day will take place at two sites in Gowens’ home in Fulton County, Ga., on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

The geographic information systems manager for the Fulton County Department of Water Resources, Gowens will coordinate the activities occurring at both the Fulton County Government Center in downtown Atlanta and the Johns Creek Environment Campus in Roswell, Ga.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of making it expand,” said Gowens, who also is the president of the Georgia URISA chapter.

GIS Day, billed on the Esri website as an “international forum for users of GIS technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society,” has a big footprint not only in Georgia but around the world.

According to Esri, GIS Day began in 1999. It is scheduled to take place the third Wednesday in November, in the middle of Geography Awareness Week, an initiative started by National Geographic magazine.

GIS Day events can take place at schools, universities and city halls. Some GIS Day activities already have occurred this year, such as an event at Grand Valley State in Michigan; some have already started, such as the three-day GIS Day activities at Texas A&M; and some will take place later in the year. But many will take place Wednesday, Nov. 20. (A calendar and map of GIS Day events is available on the Esri website.)

There are seven alone in Georgia, according to the Georgia URISA website, and Gowens will join many others Wednesday with the festivities in Fulton County.

In downtown Atlanta, Fulton County will have a formal display of map galleries and Internet demonstrations from federal, state and local agencies as well as academia. In the past, Gowens said approximately 150-200 people per day have checked out the displays.

In years past, Gowens would go to schools on GIS Day and lead students through games and activities, such as geocaching.

“When I go to the schools, they love it,” said Gowens, who has participated in GIS Day activities the last decade. “They love it because it gets an extra element of education.”

But this year, the students will come to Gowens at the Jones Creek Environmental Campus. Fifth-graders from Notre Dame Academy will learn about watershed management through presentations and geography games. Engineering students from Johns Creek High School will discover more about careers in GIS.

“We just want to give them the idea that there are careers out there focused on these methodologies and technologies,” Gowens said.

On GIS Day, that’s the big idea.

Photos from GIS Day at the Johns Creek Environmental Center.