April 28 was Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, a chance for DigitalGlobe employees to introduce their kids to the exciting work our company does and how they—thanks to their generation’s inborn ease with anything screen plus keyboard—can already use our technology, contribute to open source projects and participate in a community that reaches far beyond their neighborhood.
In the DigitalGlobe Herndon office, the day began with a rundown of DigitalGlobe’s world-class satellite constellation—a discussion of imaging characteristics, orbital science and applications that leverage DigitalGlobe imagery—designed to inspire them to pursue careers in STEM fields. Next up was “seek and find” in Tomnod where they were asked to identify national monuments in a WorldView-2 image of downtown Washington, D.C. Within 20 minutes the kids spotted the majority of the major landmarks. They also learned how this technology is used for disaster response, search and rescue, and even archeological research.
Next, the young scientists teamed up for a mental mapping exercise. They were asked to focus on the layout of popular points of interest in Washington, D.C., and to recreate it from memory on a whiteboard. The kids proved to have remarkable spatial cognition skills, but noted how hard it was to make a map without a visual reference and share it with others.
This valuable insight informed the last task of the day: crowdsourcing using the OpenStreetMap (OSM), an online project to create a free, editable map of the world. For this last exercise, kids leveraged the OSM platform to update relevant map features around an elementary school in northeastern Massachusetts. We discussed proper methods for defining geographic features (points, lines and areas), and how to appropriately tag each feature (stop sign, river, school). After earning their cartographic “learners permit” each child took turns mapping crosswalks, athletic fields, swimming pools, playgrounds, and realigning roads to imagery around the school. Upon completion, the kids were excited to see that their edits were being rendered on OpenStreetMap.
After Bryce Frazier, a second grader and son of DigitalGlobe Senior Vice President Tony Frazier, updated OpenStreetMap for the Boston-area school, he got inspired to add his neighborhood middle school to the big picture. On the Bing map satellite imagery layer often used for OSM, all that’s visible is the initial clearing for the middle school, which opened in fall 2014. “My school was in OpenStreetMap,” Bryce said. “But my dad showed me how we can use more current DigitalGlobe imagery to put it on the map!”
In addition to giving kids a chance to experience what their parents do 40-plus hours a week, this day also highlighted how the industry is evolving, making highly complex technologies and vast amounts of imagery easier to use and mine for information. And not just for those within the four walls of an office, but for the world—whoever has the passion and curiosity to contribute, to make an impact, to see or analyze the Earth in a new way. The future is in the hands of these kids and the many K-12 students who DigitalGlobe team members talk to across the country, and these nascent geospatial experts are just about ready for the handoff. This next generation will work with “the digital globe” we’ve created, and use it to answer new questions and find as yet unimagined solutions for challenges facing our always-changing planet.
Join us at GEOINT! Members of the DigitalGlobe team will be sharing the company’s vision for student engagement at GEOINT, Monday, May 16, 10 a.m. to noon, booth #1103.
Coming soon: How DigitalGlobe developed curriculum to teach K-12 students how to map their world.