By Candace Birkelbach

Killeen Daily Herald

Students took away some real-life knowledge Wednesday from the Geographic Information Systems Day at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

More than 1,000 sixth-graders filled the ballrooms of the Conference Center and got their hands

on dozens of practical applications related to different aspects of geography.

The most prominent displays at GIS day were about protecting the environment, the uses of satellite technology and archaeology.

Dozens of local businesses and organizations from the community set up booths to give hands-on demonstrations on their areas of expertise.

Members from departments within the city of Killeen included information technology, police, planning departments, and water and sewer.

Representatives from Fort Hood's public works environmental division, Central Texas Council of Governments, Keep Killeen Beautiful, Temple College and Mitchell & Associates Engineering and Surveying were also set up at the event.

The Keep Killeen Beautiful booth simulated an oil spill and showed students how they would go about cleaning it up.

Students were able to select three different tools to clean up the spill – a paper towel, sponge or cotton ball.

Ken Schoen, who serves on the board of directors for Keep Killeen Beautiful, said cotton balls work best for cleaning up spills but are impractical.

He stressed the severity that an oil spill brings and described the elaborate process of cleaning animals who have been contaminated with oil.

Schoen said the satellite maps created by GIS are vital to determining where water is underground.

"It's all about keeping the environment clean," Schoen said.

Rufus Walker, director of public works for the environmental division at Fort Hood, said he wanted to educate children about recycling.

"We need to start with (children) because adults don't have it embedded in them," Walker said.

The Fort Hood environmental division also demonstrated the energy wasted by regular light bulbs.

Christine Luciano recommended that people use compact florescent bulbs in their homes to cut down electric costs and usage.

The demonstration had a meter than showed the difference in energy used by the two bulbs.

Another room in the Conference Center was dedicated to teaching students about lakes and continents. Students were given prizes for answering questions correctly, and every student received a shoulder bag.

The recycling center of Killeen also had a booth set up to show children the four elements of a compost pile: leaves, grass, water and air.

"It's an opportunity for kids to learn one more thing," said Peter DiLillo, recycling manager.

He said compost piles benefit the environment and putting material in them is better than having that waste end up in a landfill.

A police car and motorcycle were set up at the event and sounded their sirens sporadically throughout the event.

With all of the lights turned off inside the ballroom, children ran around screaming and plugging their ears when the sirens were sounded.

Contact Candace Birkelbach at or call (254) 501-7553

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