Red Bank High School Students Assist First Responders During Texas Flooding

Friday, September 8, 2017
Last weekend as Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas, Red Bank High School teacher Leah Keith-Houle made plans for her classes to go “HOT!” HOT stands for Humanitarian Outreach Team, which is facilitated through OpenStreetMap.US site. OpenStreetMap is an open source, freeware mapping program that works for those who do not have the technology to build real-time, live maps. 

Red Bank High School worked with an international group to build maps, edit roads, bridges, housing, and crisis center locations so that first responders could use their smartphones and laptops to help those in peril. Local global leader in GIS and mapping, Randy Hale, indicated that OSM and other open source sites were receiving over 18,000 hits per minute for information on road closures and flooding, as map makers were working with responders to support those in need.

Red Bank students decided that this work took priority from the normal curriculum and got to work. Day one was a crash course in learning OSM and how to build structures and how to attribute them. Students worked for five days to make a difference in Texas. A total of 101 students at Red Bank participated and completed 8,209 structures in about 11 hours. A terrific rate of speed and accuracy was displayed by students in mapping buildings in the areas most prone to flooding, officials said. 

Students worked primarily in areas around the chemical plants that were in the news due to their potential for explosion. Ms. Keith said, “It is really wonderful to watch students see the real contribution that can be made with their technology skills.”

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