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Local middle-schooler wins statewide mapping contest

An eighth-grader from Hiawatha won this year's Iowa Map Contest

Laura Hubbs, 13, of Hiawatha poses for a portrait at Guthridge Park in Hiawatha on Monday, July 23, 2018. Hubbs recently won a state mapping award and moved on to the national competition for her mapping of parks in the Hiawatha, Cedar Rapids and Robins area. Guthridge Park was the first park she included in the project. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
Laura Hubbs, 13, of Hiawatha poses for a portrait at Guthridge Park in Hiawatha on Monday, July 23, 2018. Hubbs recently won a state mapping award and moved on to the national competition for her mapping of parks in the Hiawatha, Cedar Rapids and Robins area. Guthridge Park was the first park she included in the project. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
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Laura Hubbs, an eighth-grader from Hiawatha, won first place in the middle school division of the second annual Iowa Map Contest.

For her contest entry, Hubbs, 13, compiled information about 27 different public parks in the Cedar Rapids area. She then used ArcGIS Online, a web-based geographic information systems (GIS) program, to create an online interactive map of the parks.

Her map includes recent pictures of each park and descriptions with information on their facilities and amenities.

Hubbs is home-schooled but participates in classes offered through the Cedar Rapids Home School Assistance Program. It was while learning to use ArcGIS Online in one of those classes — 21st Century Skills taught by Wilson Middle School teacher Wayne Fritch — that she heard about the Iowa Map Contest.

The Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) is a company specializing in mapping and spatial analytics software. ESRI developed ArcGIS Online and helped sponsor the Iowa Map Contest, along with the Iowa Department of Education social studies division, the Iowa Geographic Information Council and William Penn University.

This year the contest required participants to create interactive story maps of their favorite places in Iowa using ArcGIS Online.

Having taken 21st Century Skills and learned about ArcGIS previously in sixth and seventh grade, Hubbs felt comfortable trying her hand in the competition.

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“I had already learned how to use the program pretty well. I thought it would be fun to do something more and put my learning toward a bigger cause,” she said.

With no other entries from the Cedar Rapids Home School Assistance Program, Hubbs swept the local level of competition and went on to win at the state level and was rewarded with a check for $100.

Hubbs’ project then competed at the national level with almost 100 other projects.

“It was interesting to look at the different submissions from around the country to see how they did it and realize just how much work is really involved with the ones who did win (at the national level),” Becky Hubbs said. “It’s just amazing how much work these kids put in for this. It’s great.”

Hubbs’ story map application is designed to help people in and near Cedar Rapids find public parks that meet their needs. The app provides information on park amenities and includes recent photos of playground areas.

“I like to be able to hang out at parks. There are plenty of parks to be able to do around the Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Marion, Robins area,” Hubbs said.

Hubbs’ favorite park is Guthridge Park, located several blocks from her house.

For her project, Hubbs focused on parks with splash pads and playgrounds — “those are my main two things in looking for a park” — rather than including the numerous small green spaces found throughout town.

Hubbs included whether or not each park had walking trails, and if so, how many, how long and what material each one is made from. Hubbs also accounted for pools, tennis and basketball courts, softball and baseball fields, and public restroom facilities.

Hubbs completed most of the project on her own outside of class.

“Because it’s a lot of going around taking pictures, it was easier to do more of it at home, because then I could add pictures and once I got pictures in, write up descriptions,” Hubbs said.

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Hubbs’ mother helped her select which parks to include, drove her around to the different parks to take pictures for the project and proofread the park descriptions.

Adam Galluzzo, a GIS data analyst for the city of Cedar Rapids and ArcGIS specialist who helped teach students about the program in class, also helped Hubbs troubleshoot her project.

“We would meet up maybe about once every couple of weeks and we’d go over it. If I had any questions I could ask him the questions then or I’d ask him the questions at the end of class,” Hubbs said.

If Hubbs needed help during the week she emailed Fritch, who then passed her questions on to Galluzzo.

The 21st Century Skills class also teaches students about programming and virtual reality. Hubbs has a particular interest in coding and programming and said she might enter the contest next year if the theme interests her again.

l Comments: (319) 368-8514; molly.hunter@thegazette.com

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