In the weeks leading up to the 2013 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) event, a group of high school students were given the chance to receive training on the applications of geospatial technologies. The hands-on experience was the opening summit of the National Youth Summit Series held at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center.
The National Youth Summit Series on Geospatial Technology, which was also one of seven Samsung Summer Science Programs, introduced Global Positioning System (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), and remote sensing (RS) technologies.
Although it takes technology experts and geographers time to master these important applications, the intensive workshops offered during the summit engaged youth in an impactful way. "I thought it would be a lot for them, but everything that they learned and everything they came up with in their workshops was beyond my expectations," said Alganesh Piechocinski, Extension Educator and Senior 4-H Youth Development Agent.
"There was a new formed connection between what they knew already and what they were learning [at the Summit]. They came up with an understanding of, 'Why the GPS, Why the GIS?'," said Piechocinski. "They learned why it’s important and relevant to where they live and the importance of maps and directions.
During a rigorous week, participating youth were both tourists and geographers; they toured and mapped the coordinates of historical museums, government buildings and monuments. Tour sites included the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and the Library of Congress.
"They learned by being in the field, going to the D.C. monuments and trying to map the longitude and latitude. It was something they probably never thought about," said Piechocinki.
Other hands-on activities included "How GPS Receivers Work" and "NASA/USGS Adopt a Pixel Project." In addition, students completed 4-H Maps & Apps, the 2013 National Science Experiment of 4-H NYSD. Like millions of kids during the event, the Youth Summit participants planned and mapped their own park, using geospatial inquiry and general creativity.
During daily workshops, youth were inspired by geo-pros, including U.S. Air Force Major Benjamin G. Calhoon from the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing. Additional key speakers included professionals from the National Geospatial Program and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), among others.
When asked how the experience prepared youth for the future, Piechocinki replied, "It opens their eyes. This is not a simple GIS, GPS thing; it includes and involves a lot of things in our surroundings – the food that we eat, where it comes from, the place that we live. In knowing that, it opens up their eyes, answers questions, and opens a door to working at places like the National Geological Survey or in the GPS-field."
The National Youth Summit Series is shaping the minds of future scientists who are eager to gain the knowledge needed to impact their careers and communities. It brings together some of the best and brightest students to focus on specific issues in the STEM and health science fields. Upcoming Youth Summits offered are Healthy Living, Agri-Science, and Robotics. Alganesh Piechocinski encourages youth around the country to join in on the learning, noting "Science is around us... [youth] need to understand science and what’s going on around us, how certain things are made and what we do to solve problems."
Are you interested in science or health and want to learn how you can make a difference in your community? Register for a National Youth Summit Series today!