Texas Tech University

Mapathon Event to Raise Awareness of New Mappers Without Borders Program

Glenys Young

November 4, 2015

Texas Tech and two partner universities received a $1 million grant for a consortium.

Mappers Without Borders

Texas Tech University will celebrate a $1 million grant and show off its new Mappers Without Borders program during a mapathon event from 4-7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 6) in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Computer Lab, Holden Hall room 204.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)'s GeoCenter awarded a $1 million grant to Texas Tech to establish a consortium of universities for the Mappers Without Borders program. The two other founding universities are George Washington University and West Virginia University. The program aims to consolidate a growing global community of university students, faculty and scholars who create and use open geographic data and spatial analyses to address locally defined development challenges worldwide. Friday evening's kickoff mapathon will be a simultaneous digital collaboration with students at the other two universities.

Mappers Without Borders

A mapathon is a social event in which people get together to create spatial data for a particular project, in a particular area, and then post it to an open digital mapping platform on the Internet. Typically, participants trace publicly available satellite imagery as the basis to digitize new layers of geographic information, generally physical features on the landscape that are visible, such as roads, buildings, waterways or land use patterns.

“This particular mapathon is going to use high-resolution satellite imagery provided through USAID to identify buildings and roadways in Mozambique for a project being conducted there by the Peace Corps to prevent malaria,” said Patricia Solis, a Texas Tech research associate professor of geography and director of the new program. “This is important because USAID and the Peace Corps will actually use the data we put onto the map in OpenStreetMap to know how many and where the houses are that need the intervention, and where the roads are to get there. They will be able to optimize their resources by having all of this information in a geographic system.”

Mappers Without Borders

Students who attend are asked to wear red to the mapathon in anticipation of the next day's football game against West Virginia University.

“We are leveraging a significant geospatial data revolution that makes it possible for people everywhere to not only use maps but create them, too. This is empowering for people in places that have been either left off the map or who did not have access,” Solis said. “Being able to answer the question of where, when addressing significant needs in developing countries, is very important.”

Meanwhile, students gain new skills and can use this data in their own research. This can apply to a great variety of studies on issues that lend themselves to be visualized through mapping, from locating vulnerabilities to flooding and marking the extent of drought-stricken areas to identifying factors in land use that can improve food security or locating sites with high potential for renewable energy production.

Free pizza will be provided. No prior experience is needed; students who have previously participated in mapping events will be available to help first-timers.