Higher Education

Esri Student Poster Competition Prepares Budding Geospatial Professionals at Los Angeles Geospatial Summit

The Los Angeles Geospatial Summit is hosted each year by the University of Southern California (USC) Spatial Sciences Institute. Held live and in person February 25, 2022 (for the first time since February 2020), Los Angeles Geospatial Summit was a prime opportunity for students and young professionals from communities throughout Southern California to connect with geographic information system (GIS) industry leaders to gain insights through workshops, Lightning Talks, panel discussions, and speed networking.

This year students were able to share their application of geospatial skills and analysis through the Esri Student Poster Competition. Students from Cal State University, Long Beach; Cal Poly Pomona; University of Redlands; and the University of Southern California presented their research posters during the summit. Esri awarded prizes in the following categories: Most Innovative Use of Technology, Most Compelling Communication Using Maps, and Most Suitably Applied Methodology or Analysis.

The poster competition provides students with the experience in working with faculty leads in preparing their posters and describing their research. Students have expressed to me that the poster sessions [give them some of] the most important soft skills they need as budding geospatial professionals. The Esri poster competition has become an important professional development opportunity for participating students.

—Susan Kamei, Managing Director—Spatial Sciences Institute, USC
Esri education team members Canserina Kurnia (far right) and Andrew Haglund (second from right) answer students’ questions at the Esri booth.

Esri Student Poster Competition

At this year’s 2022 Los Angeles Geospatial Summit, Esri was honored to host and sponsor the Esri Student Poster Competition. Students were asked to represent their diligent work via posters for the chance to win in one of three categories:

  1. Most Innovative Use of Technology
  2. Most Compelling Communication Using Maps
  3. Most Suitably Applied Methodology or Analysis
Andrew Hagland and a USC student talk about a posters at Los Angeles Geospatial Summit.

The Esri Student Poster Competition judges—from Hexagon, Tableau, and Esri—had been invited to participate. There were many well-executed posters submitted to the competition; however, three winners for each category ultimately had to be chosen. Esri education team member Mark Stewart was one of the judges for this exciting competition.

The diversity of projects and the innovative applications of GIS made the judging a challenge, but it also made it fun. All three of the judges remarked how far geospatial education has come since our own college days, and we genuinely enjoyed reviewing all the contest entries.

—Mark Stewart, Esri Student Poster Competition Judge, Account Manager—Higher Education, Esri

Poster Competition Winners in Three Categories

Each year USC invites faculty from GIS academic programs across Southern California to have their students submit abstracts to present posters at the Los Angeles Geospatial Summit. Students from USC, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Northridge, and University of Redlands participated in the 2022 poster competition. Here are the winners of each category.

Category 1: Most Innovative Use of Technology

The winner in the category of Most Innovative Use of Technology was the project USC Urban Trees Initiative Phase 2.

As Los Angeles begins to plant more trees to improve environmental conditions, it is important to understand the most effective and equitable means of doing so. This project studies current conditions of urban tree canopy in various neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles. “I joined this team because I wanted to be involved in research that would have concrete impacts on people living in Los Angeles,” says Jackson Fitzgerald, poster competition winner recipient. This project ensured that trees can be leveraged to combat climate change, reduce the urban heat island effect, and improve air quality.

[The Los Angeles] Geospatial Summit was a wonderful opportunity to learn about geospatial technology in a way that is impossible in the classroom.

—Jackson Fitzgerald, Student Researcher USC Spatial Sciences Institute
On behalf of their team, USC students Jackson Fitzgerald and Naman Casas (left and center, respectively) accept the award in the category of Most Innovative Use of Technology at the 2022 Los Angeles Geospatial Summit.

Category 2: Most Compelling Communication Using Maps

The winner in the category of Most Compelling Communication Using Maps was the project Little Fisherman’s Cove Landslide Risk Assessment.

This poster displayed its team’s process of data acquisition, GIS analysis, and cartography application to create a landslide-risk analysis for a portion of the road leading into USC’s Catalina Island campus. The team members used a drone and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology to collect data before analyzing it in ArcGIS Pro through a weighted-overlay methodology. They identified spots within the study area that are at notable risk of landslide and offered strategies for mitigation.

As a senior, I feel that I have learned a lot about GIS and spatial sciences through my undergraduate education, and it felt validating winning this poster competition. This experience has made me more driven to continue into this field.

—Erik Huisman, Esri Student Poster Competition Winner
Erik Huisman (left) accepts the award in the category of Most Compelling Communication Using Maps on behalf of his team at the 2022 Los Angeles Geospatial Summit.

Category 3: Most Suitably Applied Methodology or Analysis

The winner in the category of Most Suitably Applied Methodology or Analysis was the project DEM Resolution Comparison for Landslide Vulnerability Analysis.

The team in this project investigated spatial resolution options of digital elevation models (DEMs) to assess the landslide vulnerability of a USC study site on Catalina Island. “We were interested in a practical application using tools that we had available including Unmanned Aerial Systems [UAS] and high-precision GPS instruments. We designed the experiment to be repeatable at various study sites,” says Rebecca Bosworth, poster competition winner. She and the team found that less costly low-spatial-resolution information provided the same conclusions as costly high-spatial-resolution DEMs. For this particular case, they proved that high-spatial-resolution products may not always be necessary depending on the application.

The summit was a fantastic and timely forum for students to meet with leaders and peers in the profession to discuss how the geospatial community can support various efforts during ongoing, rapidly changing world events.

—Rebecca Bosworth, Esri Student Poster Competition Winner
Canserina Kurnia (center) stands with the winning team members as they accept the award in the Most Suitably Applied Methodology or Analysis category at the 2022 Los Angeles Geospatial Summit.

Esri Resources for Students and Young Professionals

Events such as the Los Angeles Geospatial Summit allow the opportunity for higher education students to connect with peers, mentors, and professionals from many different geographic areas. These networking opportunities can be integral in kick-starting a career in the geographic field.

Each year I am blown away by how innovative students are in using GIS technology to research pressing topics. The summit and poster competition are a unique opportunity to showcase their geospatial skills and present their research to industry leaders.

—Canserina Kurnia, Senior Solution Engineer—Education, Esri

Esri offers many resources to assist higher education students in their path to career success. These resources include the following:

About the authors

Rosemary Boone is as a Senior Industry Marketing Manager for Esri, concentrating on executing marketing strategies for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. She holds a master’s degree in education technology with an emphasis on multimedia. Prior to her career in marketing, she taught elementary school and taught overseas. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, exercise, spend time with her cats, and explore her favorite city in the world- Claremont, California.

Alexa Vlahakis works as an Associate Industry Marketing Manager for Esri, supporting conservation and education. She holds a bachelor's of arts degree in communication studies with minors in human relations and mass communication/journalism from the University of Iowa. In her free time, she likes to explore the outdoors, indulge in new experiences, and wind down each day with her fur babies.

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