Attending the Esri UC as a First Year PhD Student

In April, I submitted a Story Map to Esri UK titled ‘Geovisualising Environmental Impact Assessments’; this explored the work I completed in my undergraduate dissertation and how this led on to my current PhD work. When I received the call that I was successful I felt a whole series of different emotions – excited, nervous, motivated, and overwhelmed. But, nevertheless unbelievably eager to be one of the 16,000 attendees at the 2018 Esri User Conference in San Diego. I am going to tell you my top five moments I had whilst attending the UC.

Once I arrived in San Diego and had settled down by gaining my bearings and stocking up on some snacks, the Education Summit began. I collected my badge and started to make my way over to the hotel. The first stand out moment for me were the workshops held at the Education Summit. These either 30 or 60 minute sessions gave me an understanding into areas of the programs that I hadn’t considered. Which included Insights for ArcGIS, transferring data from ArcGIS Pro to Online and creating dashboards using data from Survey123. The information from these sessions was invaluable as it allowed me to fully understand how the Esri platform would be able to help support my current PhD research work as well as engage with stakeholders and the general public. The Education Summit was also a great opportunity to speak to the fellow recipients of the Jack Dangermond Young Scholar Award as well as academics and students from around the world.

Sign up, Education Summit and looking around San Diego

After a busy couple of days at the Education Summit it was then time for the main event… THE ESRI UC, with over 1000 sessions, 450 hours of GIS training & 300 exhibitors! But, before all of that started was my second stand out moment; The Plenary, led by the President of Esri, Jack Dangermond. This was an experience I will never forget, the hall was massive, full of screens covered in maps and GIS-users from across the globe. This session lasted all day and it really captivated me, making me realise how much of an impact my work can have and how applicable GIS is across the world in nearly every discipline. Some of the guest speakers were really inspiring; including Felix Finkbeiner who set up at the age of 9 initiated Plant-For-The-Planet in 2007. His aim is for children to plant 1 billion trees to offset their own carbon emissions. He had harnessed the power of GIS to make an incredible difference, contributing to saving our planet.

The Plenary was followed by the Map Gallery, which was the third stand out moment in my time at the UC. This provided an opportunity for me to show the poster I submitted along side the other Young Scholars, interact with other attendees to discuss my work and look at 100’s of stunning maps submitted to the Map Gallery. This was a fantastic networking opportunity, I spoke to people from all over the world about my work (and gaining some great connections on LinkedIn). As well as chatting about the GIS education I received at Newcastle University and my PhD program through the DREAM CDT.

Map gallery as a Young Scholar and receiving my award from Jack Dangermond

Throughout the week I attended a vast number of sessions. Using the app, I was able to jam-pack my days from 8:30am – 5:30pm with a variety of sessions, discovering the expo and learning new skills through the digital workshops. This gave me an insight into the abilities on the Esri platforms as well as the capabilities and applications across a number of different sectors from exhibitors from across the globe. My fourth stand out moment was attending the Cartography sessions which reaffirmed my current knowledge and opened my mind up to exploring more of ArcGIS Pro. It introduced me to the MOOCs which are free from Esri to help improve and engage key cartography skills – I’ve signed up for two to complete over this academic year.

Social events, including the Young Professionals Network and Balboa Park Party

As well as all the fantastic academic and informative opportunities, there were some great social events that were my fifth stand out moment. The Young Professionals Network (YPN) allowed for interaction with young GIS professionals from around the world. It was interesting to meet a wide variety of people in a fun and fresh environment. There was great upbeat music, food and company! On the Thursday night, a party was held at Balboa Park; which was massive. The park contains a variety of museums, all open for free – with music, drinks and food from different areas of the world. It was great to explore with the fellow young scholars, with a good dance at the main stage – ending the week perfectly. Overall, I had a once in a lifetime experience in San Diego at the Esri UC, it opened my eyes to so many new possibilities and demonstrated how highly GIS is regarded across the world. I would like to thank Esri UK for this fantastic opportunity and would recommend anyone to apply!

Link to the Esri Education Newsletter, giving details of next years competition:

https://esriukeducation.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=70c638cc32ca48218961a63db42ea4e

Link to the winning StoryMap:

https://ncluni.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=138ac18950bd4c9db3e8501f95701fb9

 

 

 

DREAM Challenge Week 2018

Last week we hosted the DREAM CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training in Data, Risk And Environmental Analytical Methods) Challenge Week – an event each year, which brings together the students from across the four member universities to address a set challenge based around the themes of the CDT – big data and environmental risk. This year the students were asked to ‘design and undertake an agile prototype development of a real-time spatial hazard decision support tool for Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’. Data from both the Urban Observatory and the NISMOD-DB++ (National Infrastructure Simulation and Modelling Database) was made available, as well as technical advice from staff in both teams (all part of the Geospatial Group) on accessing and using the data through their API’s.

Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle University
Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle University. The host venue for the week.

Three groups, containing a mixture of students at various stages of their PhDs, and from across the four universities, were set the challenge at lunch time on Monday, before presenting their work on the Friday morning. In between, they spent their time assessing the quality of data (and the API’s!), developing tools and models, and listening to a host of speakers – including Chris Jones from Northumbrian Water (Research and Development Manager) to staff from Newcastle University like Professors Chris Kilsby and Richard Dawson, experts in natural hazards. All groups produced some quality outputs while learning new skills along the way and becoming familar with new datasets. A summary of the work by the groups:

Group 1 – Investigated how real-time temperature data from the Urban Observatory, combined with historical data, could be used to alert emergency responders/decision makers/residents/family members of those locations where action was required when extreme temperature events appeared to be occurring. By using household characteristics data from the NISMOD-DB++ database, those communities which might be more vulnerable could be identified improving the effectiveness of the system.

Group 2 – Using real-time air pollution data from the Urban Observatory and Ordnance Survey road network data from NISMOD-DB++, the group designed and demonstrated an app which allows users to identify a route between destinations based on the exposure to air pollution and/or time. Ordnance Survey building heights data was also used, again via NISMOD-DB++, to improve the estimates of pollution levels on streets where no sensor data was available.

Group 3 – Like group 2, an app was developed to allow users to identify the least polluted routes between two locations, though this was focused on school children and had an educational element too. A user friendly interface was designed with the aim of encouraging children to learn about the harmful effects of pollution, and help identify routes from their homes to school that can help reduce their exposure risk. Again this used real-time data from the Urban Observatory as well as Ordnance Survey building and network data through NISMOD-DB++.

Group three presenting their work from the week

As ever, such events also involve a team bounding exercise, and on this occasion, this was a meal out in Newcastle at the Blackfriars restaurant on the Wednesday evening. With Newcastle being known as a bit of a party city, I will let you decide if the night stopped there on went on a little later into the night….

The organised meal in the Banqueting Hall at Blackfriars restaurant

Thanks to all the students who came along and actively enagaged embracing the set challange, to all presenters for giving up thier time, and to all staff from across the four universities who attended, all of which made the event a success!

GISRUK 2019

For those who were not present at GISRUK 2018 this year in Leicester we are delighted to announce that we are hosting GISRUK (GIS Research UK) in April 2019! And for those that were at Leicester, what follows is a reminder about some of the key details.

The conference will be between 23 – 26th April, and will be hosted in the new Urban Sciences Building, one of the most (if not the most) sensored buildings in the UK. The conference theme has already been decided, and will be ‘From Data to Decisions’. More details about this, the programme, abstract submission process and registration will be announced in September.

We have also been busy organising the social events, from the conference reception to the conference dinner, and again we will announce more details about these soon.

Our website will be going live in September, but in the mean time please follow @GISRUK on twitter for the latest announcements, follow #GISRUK2019 or follow us at @GeospatialNCL. To get in contact with any queries email us at GISRUK2019@newcastle.ac.uk or contact us on twitter.

We look forward to hopefully seeing many of you hear next year!

Your GISRUK 2019 conference committee.

Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle University
GISRUK 2019 Conference Venue, Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle University

Mapping the World

The Mapping the World project last week saw 15 year 10 and 12 students from 4 local schools experience University life as a Geomatics student. Students were introduced to the world of geospatial engineering and learnt about how GIS is used in their everyday life (think snapchat maps), and how to measure height change of land using levelling.  The hi-vis jackets (or wally jackets as we like to call them) proved very popular with the flies on Exhibition Park but not so much with the students wearing them!

Casually mapping the bins on campus…

Using ArcGIS Online and the Survey 123 app students investigated how GIS can help with asset management around Newcastle University campus. Students were given free rein on which aspect of campus management they would like to investigate, projects covered everything from where to store your bike, where are the comfiest seat on campus and disability access routes. After exploring the campus whilst mapping, students concluded by presenting their findings using Story Maps to show off all their hard work. It was great being part of the Futureme programme inspiring the next generation to go into higher education.

A heatmap of bike storage locations and there popularity, one of the many maps produced by the students with their own data.

Pippa

Northumbrian Water Innovation Festival

Last week myself and a group of us attended the Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) Innovation Festival (#InnovationFestival18), intended to bring people from different areas together to think about and tackle challenges within the water industry (with a focus on NWG). More intriguingly Newcastle University had sponsored one of the 12 sprints, a sprint running all day for the full five days with the idea of developing concepts to solve a problem, with this in particular sprint focused on digital twins (#DigitalTwins). Other sprints included how utilities could better work together to map underground assets and one focused on how can we create a happier and more productive workforce. This was not a small event, with over 2000 people attending and over 500 business involved. In true festival style, the week began with a compulsary participation in a sing-along to ‘The greatest showman’…..

Crowds in main tent (the ‘Thunderdome’) to see guest Alexander Armstrong (of pointless fame).

Great ideas were bounded around, with people involved ranging from those in management positions in NWG, to researchers like myself all who had varied skills and interests, to NWG customers themselves! Ultimately in the Digital Twin sprint where we were most involved, great ideas were devised as to how these could help NWG, from devising a single database system as ‘a single source of truth’ to developing a digital twin for incidents such as bursts as well as one for the whole company for modelling the communication and data flows through personnel. I’m sure across the other 11 sprints more great ideas were involved, with NWG now left with the not so small job of deciding which of these to follow up on!

Work on a #DigitalTwin of a pipe burst which occured a couple of months earlier on the NWG network.

For more information see https://innovationfestival.org/.

Thanks to all the effort of the organisers!

Ps. If you are wondering what the greatest showman is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyVYXRD1Ans

Craig

The Future of Cultural Heritage: Free Seminar

Corbridge Roman Town

As part of Newcastle University’s ‘Inspired by’ Great Exhibition of the North programme, Dr Maria-Valasia Peppa from the School of Engineering and NEOlab, will be discussing some of her work investigating changes in our cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage has large historical, social, and anthropological values and is an important enabler of sustainable development. Join researchers at Newcastle University in exploring how technologies, such as remote sensing and 3D printing, are used to safeguard the world’s cultural heritage for future generations.

The event is free to attend, however you need to register here.

The event is on the 26th July at 1 Science Square, and will start at 7pm.

Hope to see you there!

Code Sprint scholarship – Kenya

Kaizer Moreri, CEG PhD student from Botswana, researching aspects of Volunteered Geographic Information in improving Land Administration Systems, was awarded a full travel scholarship to contribute to a ‘code sprint’ in Kenya this week. Second from left in the attached photo, Kaizer was invited along with 25 others from Europe and Africa to develop and contribute code to enhance the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) – a pro-poor, gender responsive and participatory land information system developed by the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN). This intensive four day workshop was held at the Regional Centre for Mapping and Rural Development (RCMRD), a pan African institution located in Nairobi, and tweets (https://twicopy.org/tag/STDMCodeSprint) report that this was an exciting event.

Kenya Code Sprint - Kaizer Moreri

ITRC MISTRAL Launch event

At the end of May Stuart Barr attended the launch of the ITRC (Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium) MISTRAL (Multi-Scale Infrastructure Systems Analytics) programme, an EPSRC funded 5year programme between seven universities, including ourselves, with Stuart being one of the co-investigators. Hosted at the ICE (Institute of Civil Engineers) in London, the event presented the vision and ideas behind the new programme, the next step in infrastructure systems-of-systems analysis research following the completion of the previously funded ITRC programme. Attended by over 150 people, including representatives from academia, private sector businesses and public sector organisations, the event included speeches from Professor Jim Hall, the lead investigator on the ITRC MISTRAL project, Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and Keith Clarke, the ICE vice president. A question and answer session then followed providing the opportunity for the attendees to find out more about the ITRC MISTRAL project from the key persons involved, including Stuart.

A video has since been released including snippets from some of the speakers, providing an insight into the work which will be undertaken in the ITRC MISTRAL project and the important role it can play in the future of infrastructure systems.

 

Introduction to GIS for Teachers

For many years, the geomatics group at Newcastle University has delivered CPD courses for teachers. The courses have focussed on both surveying and GIS at various times and have been delivered both in Newcastle and elsewhere including Surrey, Oxfordshire and Inverness-shire. With the rise of GIS in GCSE and A-Level curriculums our Introduction to GIS for Teachers course has become increasingly popular. We have also found a great ally in Paul Baker from the Geographical Association who has helped to promote our courses and identify schools around the country who can host us.

tom_image

Our most recent course ran on Friday 03 June at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire with teachers from Ampleforth, Sheffield High School, Ashville College, Hymers College and Priesthorpe School.

In the course we covered:

  • An introduction to GIS
  • Exploring geohazards including downloading and plotting data directly from the US Geological Survey website
  • Using the GB Fieldtrip app (in the stunning college and abbey grounds!)
    Analysing Indices of Deprivation data using GIS
  • A plenary where we used some provocative questions to help the delegates to reflect on the role of geography in their school and to consider cross-curricular potential of GIS

One of the questions we are always asked at these events is why do we do them? And why are they free? Our answer is in three parts:

  1. GIS is a subject we all enjoy, see great potential in, and we want to help spread the word.
  2. As a University, we should be good neighbours and ensure that we provide support to schools and teachers.
  3. The reality is that our two degree courses, BSc Geographic Information Science and BSc Surveying and Mapping Science continue to attract low numbers of students and we hope that these courses will raise awareness of them in schools.

It was another great day and hopefully a few more teachers are now a little more confident and excited about using GIS in their teaching.

Finally, many thanks to Ceri Dent (Head of Geography at Ampleforth College) for hosting us. The computer cluster, facilities, catering and setting were all fantastic. Thanks, Ceri!

Tom

ESRI UK User Conference Tuesday 17 May

This year’s ESRI Annual Conference took place once more in the QEII Conference Centre in the heart of Westminster.  It was good to meet up with several Newcastle graduates, each making their mark on the GI industry.  The major ‘take-away message’ from this year’s conference was the increasing ease by which the traditionally ‘clunky’ ArcGIS desktop can be left behind in favour of developing using ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online, products with regular and frequent update cycles and increasingly comprehensive functionality.

From the perspective of ESRI, David Rix (1976 graduate) and Dominic Stubbins (1995) were amongst the welcoming corporate hosts, contributing to an efficiently-run and informative event, well worth the trip from the north!  Nathan Ward (1993) was manning the Leica stall, one of several associated partners exhibiting in the building.  Laura Hanson (2003 graduate), now with Arup, and Rachel Oldroyd (2011 graduate), now with the University of Leeds, were ex-staff members spotted, along with Meredith Williams (staff 2000-2010).

Joining Dominic from the 1995 cohort was Ian Moodie, whilst from even further even back, Rob Knight and Helen Durham (both 1985) are both thriving.  Clive Surman-Wells (1988) and Andy Hopkins (1996) made their presence known also, along with some 21st century graduates – Bruce Ford (2009), Claire Watkins (2009), Victoria Short and Matt Bowerbank (2010), Matthew Bierton (2014) and Jonathan Hallam (2015).

Next week, the re-unions will continue in London at the GeoBusiness event.  There is a formal Newcastle alumni meeting on Tuesday 24 May at 15:00 hrs.  Come along to the Business Design Centre in Islington, if you are in town …