GIS students gain real world experience through collaborative projects

From the Town of Nebo archaeological project in Jordan to a 3D visualization of Peterborough Airport, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Open House 2017 featured an array of collaborative projects.

At the June 23 event, GIS – Application Specialist and Cartographic Specialist graduates showcased their projects, which they completed in partnership with non-profit and government organizations. The projects were from a variety of fields, including archaeology, forestry, municipal, natural resources, ecology, and technology.

Cartographic Specialist graduate Sean McPherson, who worked with classmates Mackenzie Marsh and Dillon Ward to create a 3D visualization of Peterborough Airport, enjoyed partnering with the County of Peterborough for their collaborative project.

“It shows you more about the real world and how they plan things…” – Sean McPherson

“My experience working with the County was great,” said Sean. “It shows you more about the real world and how they plan things, their structure and how they operate.”

Sean McPherson (left) and Mackenzie Marsh demonstrate the 3D visualization of Peterborough Airport
Sean McPherson (left) and Mackenzie Marsh demonstrate the 3D visualization of Peterborough Airport

The team utilized existing LIDAR data to create a 3D representation and a 2-dimentional map service. LIDAR is the most accurate method of gathering 3D data and in 2015 a joint project between the City of Peterborough and the County of Peterborough was undertaken to collect 10 point/m2 of LIDAR data. The County sought the expertise of Fleming’s GIS program to create an online visualization tool to help demonstrate the value of this data to users.

“They were eager to learn because they didn’t have much experience with the LIDAR there to put it on the web,” said Sean on collaborating with their community partner.

Application Specialist graduate Colleen Gibson believes more government organizations will be using GIS to help share information with constituents.

“I believe within the next five years the government will be pushing for more open data across the board,” said Colleen, who worked with her classmates Colleen McNamara and Brittany Zucchetto to create an Open Data Portal for the City of Barrie. “It helps make the government more transparent and increases community engagement.”

Colleen came to Fleming College after earning her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Geography with a specialization in Geomatics and minor in Global Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, where she was introduced to GIS.

 “I heard lots of good things about Fleming College. It seemed like a great route to go and I’m happy I came” – Colleen Gibson

“I heard lots of good things about Fleming College. It seemed like a great route to go and I’m happy I came,” said Colleen. “I immersed myself in school life. These walls became my home and I know it sounds strange but I really enjoyed it.”

Shannon MacDonald
Shannon MacDonald explains her collaborative project

Cartographic Specialist graduate Shannon MacDonald started her Fleming College studies at home through the online Applications Specialist program.

“It was a pretty intense couple first weeks working in my bedroom doing everything on my own,” said Shannon. “It was a lot, but there was a good support system of profs who encouraged us to network with other online students.”

When Shannon discovered she liked the cartographic side of things more than application, she took her education offline and attended the Cartographic Specialist program in-class at Frost Campus.

 “Everyone felt like a family” – Shannon MacDonald

“Everyone felt like a family. I’m lucky, I know all of the online students and all of the in-class students,” said Shannon, who worked with Application Specialist students Brittney Bourdages and Markus Fleming on the Otonabee Region Watershed Significant Woodlands Mapping collaborative project.

For Annie Brough, Brad Oster and Adam Prong, who worked together on the Conservation Areas Web Apps project for Otonabee Region Conservation Authority, graduating is extra sweet because all three have jobs lined up in their field.

(l-r): Brad Oster, Annie Brough, and Adam Prong
(l-r): Brad Oster, Annie Brough, and Adam Prong

Cartographic Specialist graduate Annie Brough has been hired as GIS Assistant for Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, Application Specialist graduate Brad Oster will be Planning Technician for the Township of Severn in Orillia, and Cartographic Specialist graduate Adam Prong will return to Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc. – where he worked for three years prior to attending Fleming – as an Archaeological Field Technician. Adam hopes to take on more mapping responsibilities with his new skills and education, and has a meeting this week to discuss it.

“I had to answer lots of technical questions and I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise” – Annie Brough, who has been hired as GIS Assistant for Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority

Annie said her Fleming education was useful in her job interview. “I had to answer lots of technical questions and I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise,” she said. “And lots of the government workers there are graduates of this program and hire from this program. The majority come from Fleming– there and at the MNR.”

Brad said Fleming not only prepared him with the technical knowledge needed to answer his job interview questions, but with a strong and well-crafted resume as well. Brad explained that Fleming Career Services gave a presentation on resume writing to his class and he used this information to write his resume for the Township of Severn position.

And Brad and his teammates are entering the work world with real experience thanks to their collaborative project with Otonabee Region Conservation Authority. “It helps you get real work experience,” said Brad. “It shows you how things would operate in a real workplace before you graduate.