ArcGIS Pro

Internship with the Spatial Analyst team at Esri

Last fall I came to know about the Esri Student Internship Program through my school career fair. Being a GIS student, it immediately intrigued me. I submitted the application in late November and heard back from the Spatial Analyst team for an interview a week later. I was both excited and nervous! In the interview call, we discussed about the courses I took, my programming experience and some of my projects in detail. The interview went well, and I landed the super-cool summer 2019 internship offer.

It was August of 2019, when my flight landed on the SoCal ‘red lands’. Soon after I took a scenic tour around the green campus at Esri, I met my team. Due to my experience and knowledge of working with suitability analysis, I was offered to work on the suite of Distance tools that are in ArcGIS Pro Spatial Analyst extension as well as in Raster Analytics using ArcGIS Image Server.

Esri Redlands campus
Esri Redlands campus

My internship goal was to help rebuild some of these tools for the Raster Analytics Enterprise framework. I dived into it! I learnt about the basic algorithms that worked behind these tools, binge watched all Distance tool videos from the Esri User Conference and Developer Summit; read books, online help documents, journal papers and got myself prepared.

My projects

My first project was to design, develop and test two service script tools. These tools use the new spatial analyst distance tools. The new tools use a new algorithm for cost-based distance analysis that provides more accurate and precise results as they can calculate cost surface and shortest path using a 360°angle instead of 8 directions. After finishing testing the service tools, I wrote the Raster Analysis Geoprocessing (GP) tools for ArcGIS Pro, they call the service tools that I wrote first. Through this process, I learned about ArcGIS Enterprise and how the different functionalities work between the Enterprise service tool and ArcGIS Pro GP tools. I also experienced testing software bug fixes and writing automated tests.

My next project was to do an in-depth literature review to understand how the distance tools are currently used for analysis and how we can improve them in the future. I read several research papers on distance analysis and wrote summaries for them. I found that cost-distance tools are widely used by search and rescue, resource locating analysis and least-cost construction for gas lines, roads and so on. One such paper used Distance tools to do search and rescue in Yosemite park, I realized how big of a difference Esri can make to help the world by saving lives.

The best part of my projects is that, with the ArcGIS Pro 2.6 release, I can take pride that I have helped build these tools, and I can use them to solve more suitability and distance problems.

Fun at work

Due to some changes in my university course schedule, I could not join the internship in the summer. But, I spoke with the Esri administration and my project manager, and they were able to accommodate me during the fall. Unfortunately, I missed the Intern Hackathon, but I still got to participate in Spooktacular, the Halloween costume competition.

Time flies!

Cut to the chase, today is the last day of my internship, and I can safely say that I have learnt a lot about GIS, spatial analysis, software development, testing, working in a professional environment and so much more! My team members were very approachable and were always available to help and discuss with me whenever I faced any challenges. I also learnt a lot from other interns, and co-workers outside my team. This internship program really helped me grow and learn about real life use cases in GIS.

About the author

Wenli Zou graduated from Georgia Tech with major in GIS and she interned with the Spatial Analyst Team at Esri in 2019 .

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