DOBSON — Summer Explosion 4-H teams competed in an old-fashioned scavenger hunt using new-fashioned GPS equipment at Fisher River Park Wednesday.
Surry County Global Information Systems (GIS) Coordinator Una Freeman and GIS analyst Will Moore coached the 4-H’ers in the competition, which was modeled after the television show, “The Amazing Race.”
“Will and Una were the brainpower to help us,” said Extension Agent Teresa Wilkins. “They were awesome.”
According to Wilkins, the racers warmed up for the competition with various team building exercises to improve communication.
“They all did really well,” said Wilkins. “We feel it is important for them to build their teamwork skills because that is something they will use for the rest of their lives.” Fittingly, the first riddle led participants to a treasure chest with the key that would unlock all the others.
Freeman and Moore coached the participants on how to use the GPS units. The teams then had to solve various riddles to get clues which were the coordinates for their next destination in the park. True to the TV show’s form, there were “roadblocks” or challenges the teams had to solve before they moved on.
One roadblock was to construct a compass that would point north using a Styrofoam bowl, a pin and a magnet. The other challenge was to make a paper plumb bob that had to hang straight before they could resume the race.
“They really enjoyed their roadblocks,” commented Wilkins. “It was exciting to get to work with the GIS and see how much of what they do is used locally.”
Finally, the students backtracked and plotted the ground they covered which was later translated into maps of various sizes and detail for the group.
Freeman and Moore explained to the group that GIS is used in a variety of ways locally. Farmers, for instance, looking to site crops at a certain altitude could go to the GIS offices in the county tax department in Dobson and get detailed maps printed of suitable areas before they plant.
GIS also has applications for emergency response situations and has been used by local forest service officials in developing strategies for fighting brush fires. According to Moore and Freeman, GIS is being used to track data such as traffic accidents and certain crimes so local law enforcement professionals can develop plans specific to problem areas.
The applications of GIS also have streamlined the process where many local real estate agents and lawyers can access land information for client transactions and can also be used by county officials for property tax assessment evaluations as well as by city and county planners for zoning.
Freeman told the group that GIS is an ongoing process for her staff.
“If a fire hydrant is put up, we have to go out and map it,” explained Freeman.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.