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Geospatial Education, Training and Support

AfriSpatial and Kartoza

Since July 2014, Afrispatial, now headed by Bridget Fleming, is focussed on geospatial education and training. Gavin Fleming has teamed up with Tim Sutton from Linfiniti to form Kartoza (Pty) Ltd.
Visit Kartoza for all your FOSS GIS requirements.

The AAG (American Association of Geographers) and US State Department, through EIS Africa, ran the South Africa edition of the GCE MyCOE Youth TechCamp from 13-23 July 2014. Afrispatial and its founder’s new venture, Kartoza, were brought on board to lead the technical and educational aspects of the TechCamp. The TechCamp was ten days of cultural exchange coupled with hands-on GIS learning around a theme of climate change. The main goal of the programme was to stimulate the role of Geography in the students and to teach how new technologies are advancing the use of Geography in the real world to solve problems.

The excellent team in the Geography Department of the University of Pretoria hosted the TechCamp (see their post), while we all stayed at the Altelekker Youth Camp in Irene. Thirty-seven 15-17-year-old high school students did GIS classes, learnt about climate change issues, listened to guest speakers like Colleen Vogel and Roger Ellis, went on field-trips to Freedom Park, Maropeng, Sterkfontein Caves and Dinokeng and had lots of fun. The students were selected over the previous six months through a competitive process: ten from the USA and the rest from South Africa. Students from both countries came from a range of backgrounds: private and public schools, rural and urban, advantaged and disadvantaged. Some were computer literate and even had won GIS awards, while others had hardly touched a computer. The main aim for integrating these students was to initiate a skills transfer as well as a cultural exchange.

The setting for most of the lectures was the University of Pretoria, which was carefully chosen to stimulate the participants into appreciating what university is all about and also making them aware that Geography can be regarded as a career. The climate change project focussed on water-related issues centred around Centurion Lake: pollution, planning, dolomite and sinkholes. We prepared datasets covering Gauteng, including satellite imagery, a DEM, OpenStreetMap layers, Tshwane Metro layers, geology and other public data. These were provisioned from a central PostGIS database and from Spatialite databases on USB drives. The students learnt the basics of GIS, through to digitising, basic analysis and map composition, all using QGIS. They all took the data and QGIS software home with them to share and distribute.

By the end of the TechCamp the students’ computer and GIS skills were phenomenal. They were put to good use in the “TechTorrent” on the last day, where each of eight teams presented the research projects they had been developing all week. Their presentations employed tools such as Prezi and ESRI Storymaps and all contained maps made in QGIS.

with contributions from Admire Nyakudya and Bridget Fleming

Afrispatial attended the SA GEO 2013 conference at the university of fort Hare to present its  current work in the remote sensing field. The presentation mainly focused on how Afrispatial is preparing teachers in helping them understand the basics of remote sensing and how remote sensing techniques can be applied using Open Source GIS such as QGIS. Bridget Fleming, a Geography teacher and examiner with more than 26 years in the teaching profession and  Admire Nyakudya, a graduate in remote sensing, are rolling out teacher education for remote sensing and GIS in the whole country in preparing teachers for understanding remote sensing since it will be fully part of the curriculum as of next year. As well as presenting the courses, Afrispatial is also involved in preparing course material which the teachers will be able to get free under an open licence.

The involvement of Afrispatial in educating teachers received a welcome from all the participants and it resulted in the establishment of a Community of Practice for remote sensing education whose primary aim is to consolidate what Afrispatial is doing and also ensure that all other relevant professionals (remote sensing scientists and experts) can collaborate and produce standardised teaching materials to use in preparing teachers for the remote sensing curriculum. Afrispatial made a plea for collaborating with the Education department to have competent teachers who are equal to the task of teaching new technology as it becomes available, as is already the case with the Western Cape Department of Education.

The SA GEO conference also had notable speakers from SANSA, ARC, academics from the major universities in the country and students from the University of Fort Hare. They showcased the work that they are undertaking in the remote sensing field. SANSA talked about the satellite that they are planning on launching and there was much discussion on what the remote sensing experts expected the satellite to cover, the bands that it will be monitoring and how to adjust that to the budget that they have; their initiative in distributing the Fundisa disk with SPOT 5 images for   students in South African universities and the need to establish a portal to share data.

Other notable presentations centred on how remote sensing is being utilised in the industry and examples of topics that were presented are Land cover mapping for erosion modelling of Macubeni, Eastern Cape and the value of terrain attributes to map land at risky of soil salinity. All presentations that were done during the conference will be available for public viewing on the SA GEO website.

As the conference wound up, one of  the primary sponsors, SACNASP (South African Council for Natural Scientific Professionals) encouraged all participants to be registered within the professional body and highlighted the importance of being a registered professional and the code of conduct required of professional. The registration material is readily available at the SACNASP website.

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Adriaan van Niekerk presenting to the RS CoPAdriaan van Niekerk presenting to the RS CoP
Adriaan van Niekerk presenting to the RS CoP
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