Where Are We? Geospatial Awareness and STEM

Where Are We? Geospatial Awareness and STEM

When the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency called for volunteers to interact with St. Louis grade schoolers and teach them about geography through the GeoPlunge program, Engility employees leapt at the opportunity. GeoPlunge is designed to teach geographic literacy—where you are in the world and how you can get to other places.

Learning Where You Fit

As a kid, my family had the full-series of Encyclopedia Britannica Aa-Zz, and I read the entire thing. On family car trips I was the "navigator," and our Rand McNally maps were my go-to guide. I would always research where we were headed, the best travel routes, and state details like their capitals, flowers, birds, flags, statehood dates, etc. I know, quite the nerd.

Later in life as a private pilot, navigating with the use of VFR sectional charts and then land navigation as a U.S. Air Force Security Forces officer, I always enjoyed having a map in my pocket — so I guess I've always been enamored by maps. Who made these? How long did they take? Who updates them? Fascinating.

What’s Great About GeoPlunge

I'm continually surprised about how little individuals, ranging from young adults to my father, understand the world around them. For instance, when I was stationed in South Korea, my sister would tell her friends I was stationed in NORTH Korea — not knowing the difference. In a day and age when SIRI or WAZE provides directions, I find it a little sad that the ability to look at a map prior to departing your house to a destination is becoming an archaic custom. When I ask someone, "Where's Iowa?” I get responses as varied as, "It's near Texas, right?" or "Somewhere near Minnesota".

By working with these fourth-graders, NGA is giving us a chance to make a difference in how these kids approach the world around them. When directions are delivered to your phone, you don’t get that sense of place and relative position to others. In return, the NGA and Engility are developing the geospatial intelligence specialists of the future.

I was born and raised in Warsaw, IN, and have lived all over the world the last 20 years, moving every two years. That kind of travel has made me appreciate where I, my family, my community, and my nation fit into the bigger picture. I moved to St. Louis in October of 2014, and I’m delighted to interact with others in my city and provide them with the tools that have served me so well.

What's Next?

We start volunteering in the classrooms on October 8. I'll be leading the effort every Monday morning during the course of the program. As a former substitute teacher, I look forward to the interaction with the youth of our nation interested in learning more about geography.

Stay tuned; I plan to share my experiences in an upcoming blog and update you on how the students have applied what they learned. In the meantime, Engility wanted in on the fun, so we sponsored the official merch. Check out the cool GeoPlunge tee shirts…who says being a nerd doesn’t pay off?

Geospacial Awareness Engility

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Posted by David Geiger

I am a strategic communications and multimedia specialist with experience developing new business marketing strategies, sustaining complex change management operations, and leading public affairs campaigns within the commercial and U.S. federal government sectors. A retired U.S. Air Force Special Forces officer, I am part of Engility’s St. Louis team where I work to put effective mobile apps into the hands of DoD users. My heart for STEM has led me to implement first-ever, academia-focused outreach efforts, establishing collaboration and delivery of mobile apps from a 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing free coding classes to military veterans.