Skip to main content

GIS Challenge for Geography Awareness Week

Using your spatial skills to find mystery locations.

About the challenge

Using a series of geospatial clues and tools find geocaches, create maps, snap selfies, edit data, and collect vouchers during this week long event, which explores the Washington University Campus.  

Visit this guide each day of the week; we will reveal a new set of clues with varying levels of difficulty on a new tab in this guide everyday.  The more challenges you solve increases your chance of winning in our prize drawing at the end of the week's closing celebration.

You must have your answers/tokens/photos turned in by 3:45 p.m on Friday, November 22nd.  You must be registered and present to win.  Drawing starts at 4 p.m.

Overview of Challenge Days

Monday - Maps

Maps represent a familiar example of a Geographic Information System (GIS).  Knowing where we are and how to get from one place to another is an important spatial concept and we all use maps to find our way.  Sometimes those maps are paper copies but many of our modern devices include digital mapping applications which facilitate tasks like finding the closest coffee shop or obtaining driving directions across town or across the country.  However, maps are only of value if they include features of interest at scales that enable accurate navigation. 

Today's challenge involves using maps to find locations on the Danforth campus.  See if you can use these maps to identify the features and navigate to the indicated target.  Perform the prescribed actions or find the correct information and bring your results to the closing event on Friday to exchange for entries into the prize drawings.

Tuesday - GoogleEarth

Google Earth (GE) is an example of an online geographic information system.  Many of us have used GE to "find my house" and to start viewing our surroundings in a new way.  Traditional maps create representations of features that simplify or leave out many details.  Dynamic online maps like GE and Map Quest allow us to view recent images of what is on the ground, from our own backyard to places on the globe we may never visit.  Viewing your house in GE is a way to develop a level of trust that the appliction is showing you accurate information.  Once you are satisfied that your's is the house that is shown when you type in your address, you will be more likely to trust that the view of New York, or London, etc. is equally reliable.

Use these GE point locations and their associated clues to find the target locations and obtain tokens that you can exchange for entries into the prize drawings at the closing event on Friday.

Wednesday - Coordinates

Maps allow us to visually locate features but many of them also enable us to identify exact locations based on a pair of coordinates.  Other devices such as GPS or cell phones allow you to use satellites or cell tower triangulation to obtain a set of coordinates describing your current position with varying levels of accuracy.  These coordinates can be given in a number of different formats.  Geographic Coordinate Systems utilize various spherical datums to describe the irregular shape of the earth and latitude and longitude values to exactly reference a particular spot on the planet.  Projected Coordinate Systems are used to convert spherical coordinates into a system that can be easily displayed on a flat screen or map.  Sometimes converting between these systems is required to obtain coordinate pairs that can be plotted on a map for navigation.

Geocaching involves using a GPS unit to navigate to a hidden "cache" that can include a written log or some kind of 'treasure' for those skilled enough to find the locations.  Today's challenge is similar to geocaching and involves using coordinate pairs and sometimes clues to find locations on the Danforth campus.  See if you can navigate to the indicated targets to take photos or obtain tokens that you can exchange for entries into the prize drawings at the closing event on Friday.

Thursday - OpenStreetMaps

OpenStreetMap (OSM) endeavors to provide open geospatial data and maps of the world, relying on users to detail localities.  OpenStreetMaps is fostered by community participation to create rich and useful spatial resources.  Recently OSM editathons are cropping up, which is an event organized for people to come together and collect data to add to OSM.

On this day participants will add data to OpenStreetMaps.

Friday - TGIF

Find your way to the closing event.