Students showcase cross-community project at Esri International User Conference

 The Lurgan Shared Education Project was chosen ahead of thousands of other school projects from around the world for its demonstration of how digital mapping technology can be used to promote peace.

Students showcase cross-community project at Esri International User Conference
Students showcase cross-community project at Esri International User Conference

Students showcase cross-community project at Esri International User Conference

Students from Lurgan College, St. Ronan’s College and Lurgan Junior High School showcased their Shared Education Project, at the Esri International User Conference, in San Diego on Wednesday. The project brought together Catholic and Protestant students to map and analyse sectarian divisions in Lurgan, while working together to bring about positive change in their communities.

 Held in the San Diego Convention Centre, the week-long event is the world’s largest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) conference. It gathers users, experts, scientists, educators and decision makers from every discipline – including commercial businesses, governments and non-profits – from 128 countries, interested in how GIS can transform their work, organisations, communities and countries.

 The Lurgan Shared Education Project was chosen ahead of thousands of other school projects from around the world for its demonstration of how digital mapping technology can be used to promote peace.

 Three students, three teachers and a member of the PSNI travelled to San Diego to present alongside world-renowned speakers, such as Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson – who discussed the importance of biodiversity conservation – and Jack Dangermond, president and founder of Esri.

 Alistair Hamill, head of geography, Lurgan College, said: “It is an incredible honour to have been chosen by Esri to travel to the US and present in front of such an engaged and global audience. The students are an inspiration and this has been a life-changing experience for them. As well as presenting at this prestigious event, through the project they have increased their understanding of their town and each other – forming lifelong bonds with new friends. They have also shown the power of collaboration and demonstrated the possibility of a more peaceful and inclusive future.”

 Lurgan is a very spatially divided town – residential areas tend to be segregated and public spaces are often underused, especially at night. Students from the three schools came together and visited locations across both sides of the community in Lurgan, recording their perception of safety within that space using Esri’s mobile apps. With the aid of their teachers and Esri Ireland’s ArcGIS for Schools team, students then used Esri’s ArcGIS online mapping platform to analyse the data.

 The survey showed that sectarian divides still exist in the town, highlighting locations that certain students rarely or never visit and others which they feel uncomfortable and unsafe in. The students then discussed the reasons behind the findings as well as ideas to reduce divisions in Lurgan. These insights were shared with the PSNI, the local council and the community relations council.