Meet Matthew Pietryszyn and the City of Brampton’s GIS Ambassadors

September 21, 2018 Angela Alexander

September’s GIS Ambassadors are Matthew Pietryszyn and the City of Brampton’s GIS Ambassador group. They have been busy promoting GIS and Brampton’s award-winning open data portal called GeoHub to the K-12 community. Find out how Matthew and his colleagues have supported educators and students and what their plans are for this school year.

With GIS Day less than two months away, we have decided to highlight the efforts of a group of GIS Ambassadors who are making things happen in their region. September’s blog post focuses on the work of Matthew Pietryszyn and his fellow GIS Ambassadors from the City of Brampton in their support of GIS in K-12 education. This group of professionals from the Location Intelligence and Data Visualization section of Digital Innovation & IT include:

  • Aaron De Boer, GIS Analyst
  • Adam Commeford, GIS Specialist
  • Melissa Allin, GIS Specialist
  • Paul Postiglione, Team Lead

Each member of this GIS Ambassador group is committed to promoting the importance of GIS through events and school visits in Brampton and the surrounding areas. They have built relationships with educators and their community by facilitating introductory workshops and presentations about GIS and how to access free local data through the City of Brampton’s GeoHub, an award-winning open data portal.

Matthew and his colleagues believe in what they do as GIS Ambassadors. "Supporting our community through engagement activities like the GIS Ambassadors program with Esri Canada is important to our team. To ensure our team can sustain the relationships we've built with teachers in Brampton, we've added public engagement activities into our GIS Analyst and GIS Specialist job descriptions. Team members who share a passion for working with GIS and Brampton's youth are encouraged to become GIS Ambassadors and bring their knowledge and passion into the classroom." From left to right, the GIS Ambassadors are Matthew, Aaron, Melissa, Adam and Paul.

Recently, Matthew shared with me the group’s work and vision as GIS Ambassadors. We hope their community involvement will inspire others to get involved with a local school or event this year.

1. Why do you think it is important to be a GIS Ambassador?

Our GIS Ambassador group feels that it's important to encourage our young citizens to use GIS tools and datasets and interact with their local government to help make a difference in their community. Brampton is using a Smart City approach to improve the lives of residents through innovation, data and connected technology – it’s about how people live and interact with each other. Growing data literacy helps foster an interest in data-driven decision-making, allowing people to build stronger connections to their municipality and have an impact to shape their future as engaged citizens.

2. How do you use GIS in your professional work and how has it influenced the way you support teachers and students?

I've worked for the City of Brampton since 2003 when I joined the GIS group as a GIS Analyst. I saw the trend in Web GIS growing, and was able to use my web development skills and keen eye for design to help transition my career with a focus on the user experience.

I progressed to the role of Team Lead, and our GIS team has evolved into a group that manages location intelligence and data visualization, which includes GIS and open data. Over the last two years, we've put a lot of effort into public engagement and promoting Brampton's GeoHub, an open data portal.

The GIS Ambassador program was an excellent way to promote using open data with students. We built a group of five GIS Ambassadors within our department to engage with local schools. So far, we've worked with 360 students in classrooms over five schools in Brampton, and 400 students at hackathons. Our goal is to share how they can leverage GIS tools and local open data in their assignments, projects and presentations.

Adam Commeford presenting to a local school about mapping and Brampton’s GeoHub.

3. What have you done in the last year to support the use of GIS in K-12 education?

We made multiple visits to Nancy Cartmell's grade 9 geography classes at Central Peel Secondary School. At each visit, we talked about how we provide GIS support to the City of Brampton across various departments using spatial data and tools in their business processes.

Once we establish how the City of Brampton is using GIS technology, we discuss the benefits of open data and how sharing data publicly enables both City staff and the public to gain insights through analysis and data visualization. We walk the students through the entire GeoHub and help them to understand how they can incorporate Brampton's data into their assignments and presentations.

In January, we presented to the Peel District School Board’s Professional Learning Community (along with Jean Tong from Esri Canada’s Education and Research group) about the availability of ArcGIS tools for Ontario schools and how the City can support the teachers in the classroom with ArcGIS technology.

In the spring, we developed, supervised and judged the regional Skills Ontario GIS question for the Peel District School Board competition. The winning team of two moved on to the final competition. 

We also supported Esri Canada with the development of the GIS Skills Ontario Final Competition question that focused on the City of Brampton. The students were asked to analyze the accessibility of services and amenities available to seniors living in the city who do not drive.

The GIS Ambassador group and the rest of our Location Intelligence and Data Visualization team were active in promoting GIS tools, data and Brampton's GeoHub at local high school hackathons in the past year. In most cases, whether the event is 24 hours or 12 hours, we’ve set up a GeoHub booth that hosts seminars and support for participants who are interested in incorporating spatial technology or data into their projects. I think it's interesting that most of the students we work with at the hackathons have no previous exposure to GIS, and we end up seeing a lot of successful solutions built using our GeoHub. We incentivize the use of GIS tools and open data by offering a dedicated prize for "Best Use of Spatial" that participants can opt in for. We were involved in the following hackathons:

Jean Tong and Matthew at a Brampton hackathon.

  1. What are your plans to support local schools this year?

We have scheduled class visits to Central Peel Secondary School for grade 9 and grade 12 classes where we'll continue to promote the use of GIS and open data.

We are planning our annual GIS Day Event and hope to invite Brampton teachers to attend. We’ll be supporting the upcoming IMAGINE Hackathon at the end of the month that’s in collaboration with Our Wave, Sheridan College, Royal Bank of Canada, and Research Innovation and Commercialization Centre.

We'd like to build a stronger connection with the Peel District School Board and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board - we're available as a resource for teachers to discuss what data and tools are available on the Brampton GeoHub. Our hope is that they can help us connect directly to teachers and schools that are looking for ways to modernize their geography, business and history courses by incorporating GIS technology.

We encourage all GIS Ambassadors to support a local school or get involved in a GIS Day event this year. Contact Matt at @mattpietryszyn if you would like to connect with him. You can follow the City of Brampton’s open data initiatives on Twitter at #BramptonOpenData.

Are you a teacher working with a great GIS Ambassador who you think should be highlighted in a future blog post? Contact us at k12@esri.ca to share your story with us.

About the Author

Angela Alexander

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.

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