Introducing pupils to geomatics careers

October 30th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

The annual Western Cape GIS Week this year took place from 3 to 7 September 2018 at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Bellville. Organised and sponsored by GISSA, the event is open to all Grade 9 to 12 geography, maths and science learners, and comprised an Olympiad and the GIS Week programme.

GISSA, along with the event’s co-organisers (CPUT, Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, SAGI and Esri) and volunteers made sure all the learners in the programme get a practical and interactive experience of GIS.

Russel Hope with the Olympiad winners from Rylands High School: Mariam Khan, Ismaeel Cornellius and Rizqua Bernard. (Credit: Nolizwe Adams)

Russel Hope with the Olympiad winners from Rylands High School: Mariam Khan, Ismaeel Cornellius and Rizqua Bernard. (Credit: Nolizwe Adams)

The GIS Week was preceded by an Olympiad, in which twelve teams (each consisting of three grade 10 to 11 learners representing their school) took part in the competition which had two tasks. The WCED curriculum advisors invited selected school to compete in the Olympiad, while the GIS Week which followed was open to all schools in the Western Cape.

Contestants were first familiarised with photo-interpretation concepts and then introduced to the open source QGIS software, in which they required to create GIS maps and answer a series of multiple-choice questions. In the second part of the Olympiad, the learners participated in the “Phreaky Photo Race,” where each team was given a map of the CPUT campus, with numbers and a series of clues. They had to find their way to various locations by solving questions along the way. Part of this race also included a GPS navigation task.

The combined scores from the two tasks determined the winners: Rylands High School (first place), Brackenfell High School (second place) and Settlers High School (third place), whose teams received medals and CNA vouchers sponsored by SAGI. The winning school also received the prestigious floating Hope Trophy, donated by Russell Hope in 2011.

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The GIS Week that followed introduced large groups of learners to GIS concepts in a fun, interactive way, such as showing them how the spatial data industry solves real-world problems and exposing them to GIS data and technologies. They also got practical experience with Esri’s educational Funda Lula programme, which contains exercises in basic GIS software and concepts based on the Geography school curriculum. The final part of the learners’ tour included a GPS field data collection task, in which the learners worked in groups to navigate to three nearby locations on the CPUT campus. This task gave learners a practical understanding of data collection for various GIS applications.

The event hosted 40 schools (approximately 1900 learners), some from as far afield as Caledon, Wellington and Citrusdal. This is in the hope to inspire learners to consider careers in geomatics. Each teacher attending GIS Week received GIS information on a CD, as well as maps and other teaching resources donated by the Chief Directorate: National Geo-Spatial Information (CD: NGI).

Exhibitors at this year’s Western Cape GIS Week were CD:NGI,  Surveyor General Cape Town, Geosense and The City of Cape Town, as well as CPUT and the University of Cape Town.

Schools which would like to attend the Western Cape GIS Week in 2019 may contact Adele Van Niekerk at

Contact Julie Verhulp, GIS Week Committee,

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