Herald/TJ MAXWELL - Eastern Hills Middle School sixth-graders Matthew Shatterly, left, and Brandon McIlvenna find locations using Google Earth Wednesday during the Killeen Geographic Information System Day at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

By Anthony Scott

Killeen Daily Herald

About 1,230 sixth-graders made Killeen's Geographic Information System (GIS) Day gathering the world's largest single-day event of its kind.

City GIS Manager Colen Wilson said the record size of Wednesday's event was verified through ESRI, a GIS company that partners with the National Geographic Society to register groups that put on the event. Last year, there were GIS Day events in about 90 countries and all 50 states.

"The easiest way to explain it is, it's something that takes up space on the earth and we map it," Wilson said. "We get the location using GPS technology, and we store information about it in a database and we tie that database to that point on a map."

Essentially, computerized mapping and information that ties together helps the city save time and money, making an inventory of the city's assets.

"Who would have thought we'd need to know 29 things about manholes," Wilson said. "We get all that attributed data so the guys who need to know about manholes can just open up their computers in the field and access the information they need."

Of the 21 displays at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, two of the most popular were the largest in scale. The first was a two-story balloon canyon where children learned about geology.

The second was a floor map children walked across and found locations to win prizes.

Students from Killeen, Belton and Florence school districts attended the event.

In its fifth year to host a GIS Day event, the city opened its doors to the public for the first time in the evening with parents and children coming from 5 to 8 p.m.

"The reason we hadn't opened it to the public (in the past) is because I hadn't wanted to tax my volunteers to stay that late, but when I did a survey about the interest level, everybody was on board," Wilson said.

To make the event happen, the city relied on the efforts of about 178 volunteers.

There were at least six presentations from the Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works.

"We really enjoy working with the city of Killeen, and this is our fifth year coming out to support their event," said Christine Luciano, environmental outreach coordinator. "It's a great partnership and a great opportunity to reach out to 1,200 students, not just in the Killeen Independent School District, but in the Central Texas community."

Other displays were provided by Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Mayborn Planetarium, eight city departments, an engineering company and the Boys & Girls Club.

Contact Anthony Scott at ascott@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.

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