What is GIS? How does it affect me?

What is GIS? How does it affect me?

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - One local high school is getting to teach its students a piece of technology that only six other schools in the state currently have their hands on.

The Academy for the Arts, Science, & Technology is the first Horry County school where students will learn Geographic Information System or GIS.

"The City of Myrtle Beach, HTC, even Horry County Schools, uses GIS," said Blake Vaught, teacher at the Academy for the Arts, Science, & Technology. "That's how they tell attendance lines, that's how they decide where to build new schools, they use demographics, where are we growing."

Come this fall, Vaught will be teaching it, to his students. Eventually, about 50 students a year will get training on the software.

GIS is a technology that has a potential impact on you every day, and your life could depend on it. Police, EMS, and firefighters use it to get to you in an emergency.

It is a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data. Most people associate it with mapping. GIS can be used on a computer, tablet or even a smartphone.

For example, the City of Myrtle Beach uses it to map out homes, roads, and when adding infrastructure. Local businesses use this too, like Santee Cooper when notifying customers of outages.

The GIS coordinator with the City of Myrtle Beach Lisa Holzberger said because it's used for 911 the information has to be updated at least once a week.

It's becoming so widely used in the workforce, it was decided it would be beneficial to test it out in the classroom.

"The biggest thing to remember about GIS is that it takes what would statistically be boring numbers that are on a flat piece of paper, an excel spreadsheet and whatever format and makes it visual," said Holzberger.

With grant money, the program has been installed at this school, the Academy for the Arts, Science, & Technology. According to the software's website, West Florence High School also has the program available to them. Holzberger hopes to get it in more schools from Horry to Georgetown, even Williamsburg County.

When you look at the big picture, it's a way to get students ready for the workforce.

It will strengthen their thinking process, taking a large amount of data and making it visual to then make a critical decision. For example, if a student collects data from the city on streets and infrastructure, they would use GIS to map it out. From there, they would decide, where new buildings would go up, or how they would fit in the existing format, just like the city does.

"Guarantee you they would want to work on something real world than something that they see out of a textbook," said Vaught. "It peaks their interest and it gets them going and as soon as you show them that they can use GIS to go cruising around their own neighborhood, they're very excited about it."

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