Geographic Information Systems Day is about location, location, location |

Geographic Information Systems Day is about location, location, location

by Maggie O'Neill

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Sterling Hamilton, 18, from left, Jack Martinez, 17, Joe Thompson, 17, and Andrew Lau, far right, listen to Karl Yonkers, with yellow Global Positioning System unit, demonstrate GPS operations in front of Carson High School on Thursday. Yonkers, of Carson City, is a cartographer for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Like many other students Thursday at Carson High School, Ben Atkins and Caitlyn Mattice pinpointed the locations that interested them most on digital maps hanging in the technology center.

Atkins found the Nevada State Prison.

And then he noticed another detail on the map. The proposed 395 freeway ran nearby.

“To put a freeway there is going to be handy for someone,” the 17-year-old said. “They can just get to the freeway and keep on going.”

Atkins and 16-year-old Mattice were two of many Carson High students whose teachers took them to the tech center for Geographic Information Systems Day, or GIS Day.

A GIS is a digital map made from database information.

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GIS Day is recognized each year at schools across the nation and results in the study of mapping systems, including global positioning system, or GPS.

Outside, Jeffrey Schmitz, a cartographer for the Nevada Department of Transportation, showed a class of computer students how a GPS system worked.

Using a Trimble GPS, students found several pre-located points on the field. Schmitz said military GPS systems are more accurate than civilian systems and can locate a precise point for putting a missile through a window.

“When you’re hiking, you don’t need that accuracy,” he said. “As far as hiking, if you can throw a rock and hit what you’re going for, that’s close enough.”

Maps in the tech center displayed a variety of information, including Carson City’s historical markers, current and proposed locations for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad and Pleistocene lakes in Nevada.

A map detailing fires along the Sierra Front from 1980 to 2004, showed the Zolezzi Lane fire from 1981 and the Waterfall fire from this past July.

The map Atkins and Mattice looked at showed areas inaccessible by city fire trucks because of steep terrain.

“It was very interesting to see how it looked from a birds-eye view,” Mattice said. “It was cool, I could see my house and stuff.”

Atkins could see streets, fire hydrants and where the proposed 395 freeway will go – escaped prisoner or not.

“The freeway is going to run through town and go to the Spooner exit,” he said.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’ or 881-1219.