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GIS Ambassador Matthew Pietryszyn: Supporting a Brampton hackathon and more

GIS Ambassadors are volunteers who support the use of GIS in K-12 education in Canada. Read about Matthew Pietryszyn, an ambassador from the City of Brampton who recently supported a local hackathon at the beginning of August, and find out what his plans are this school year to promote the importance of GIS to schools. 

Matthew Pietryszyn is GIS Ambassador who has been supporting K-12 educators and students since 2016. In a recent interview, I asked him to share his ambassador work and his plans to work with schools this year.

What is your role and responsibilities at the City of Brampton?  
As the Supervisor of GIS & Open Data, I lead a team two GIS Specialists, two GIS Analysts, two Enterprise Administrators and a 3D Visualization Specialist. Our primary focus is to build and maintain spatial solutions for the corporation, manage the Open Data portal and GeoHub, and promote the capabilities and benefits of spatial data and tools across the corporation to Brampton’s schools and the local community.

Matthew (far right) with the BizDirect team- the winners of the best business directory tool at Bonfire ’17. 

Tell me a little about the GIS Ambassador group you formed earlier this year and what your goals are to help students and teachers in your local area.

The GIS Ambassador group I formed at the City of Brampton includes Adam Commeford, Melissa Allin and Aaron DeBoer. The goal of the GIS Ambassador group is to engage with local schools to share how the City of Brampton utilizes GIS technology and how they can leverage those tools and data through the Brampton GeoHub. Our goal is to be available as a resource for teachers to learn about the technology that’s available to them and support it’s use in the classroom.

In May, Adam, Melissa and I visited two of Nancy Cartmell's grade 9 geography classes at Central Peel Secondary School to teach them about how the City of Brampton uses GIS and to share our GeoHub with them for use in their reports and presentations.

Can you share some information about the hackathon, including when it started, how many students get involved each year and how it was promoted?

Bonfire’17 was the third hackathon held at City Hall and run by Cipher, a coding community for young creators and a collaborative approach to teaching students how to code. Cipher was created by 4 high school students in Brampton, and their mission is to make coding education universal, free and life changing for youth.

Bonfire hosts approximately 100 students for 24 hours and relies on sponsors to provide all meals, games and prizes for the attendees. The event is promoted through social streams and high school forums.

Students participating at Bonfire ‘17.

How did you and your organization support the hackathon?
The City of Brampton supported the hackathon in a few ways. The Mayor’s office sponsored the location at City Hall, the Economic Development Office sponsored a marketing table and a specific project — a modern business directory app — and the GIS and Open Data team set up a physical “GeoHub” table at the event to promote the use of Brampton’s open data along with Esri APIs available on the GeoHub and on the Esri website.

During the hackathon, we spent time helping students learn about the GeoHub and to implement data from the site into their projects.

Was this your first year supporting it?
This was our first year supporting the hackathon, but we will continue to partner with Cipher in upcoming events.

Why is it important for you to be involved with it?
I felt it was important to be involved so that the students could be made aware of the tools and data that are available to them through the municipality, to promote the importance of being civic minded, and to continue to build a connection between the City and the community.

What were some of the highlights from the hackathon?
I really enjoyed the interaction I had with the teams that showed an interest in spatial technology. There were seven out of 30 teams that spent their time learning a new API and building their understanding of spatial concepts. It was exciting to be a part of a whole new world that was introduced to these student coders.

Which teams stood out and why?
A lot of teams and individuals stood out. One that comes to mind built a portal for the community to learn about construction in their neighborhood and to provide a means of posting questions to the City of Brampton.

The two teams and projects that stood out the most were Build a Business in Brampton (BBB) and BizDirect, both for their enthusiasm and persistence, but also for the results of their projects. BBB built a web portal that helps prospective businesses find the most suited area within Brampton to set up shop. BBB used Esri’s Javascript API and data found on Brampton’s GeoHub. BizDirect built an app using Esri’s Android App Studio that connects consumers to local businesses in the City of Brampton. They were also able to build the framework for an iOS version.

What are your plans to support the use of GIS in K-12 education in the fall? And do you plan to support the Hackathon again next year?

Our plans in the fall are to continue to support our existing relationships with K-12 teachers by presenting GIS related topics in class and what’s available to them through the GeoHub. We also hope to work with these teachers to show them how to set up Collector for ArcGIS and how simple and impactful it is to use story maps to present ideas in the classroom.

We’re hoping to connect with the Peel District School Board and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board to let them know we’re available as a resource for teachers to discuss what data is available on Brampton’s GeoHub and what tools they can leverage. We also hope that they would help us connect with teachers that would take advantage of our offer to help and visit classrooms.

Yes, we plan on supporting Bonfire’18 and other Cipher events.

If you are interested in running your own hackathon and require some resources, check out our hackathon document.

About the Author

Angela Alexander is a K-12 Education Resource Developer on the Esri Canada Education and Research team. She has over six years of experience working with educators across Canada. Angela is responsible for producing geographic information system (GIS) and curriculum specific resources, conducting and creating custom workshops for educators and judging and developing the question for the annual GIS Skills Ontario competition in Waterloo, Ontario. Angela has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Western Ontario and completed the Applied Digital Geography and GIS certificate program at Ryerson University.

Profile Photo of Angela Alexander