Geography students bring open-source mapping group to State College

Angela Rogers
February 16, 2016

Two geography students have started a Maptime chapter in State College to support community cartography and teach people how to use and create maps. The endeavor is co-sponsored by The Peter R. Gould Center for Geography Education and Outreach in Penn State’s Department of Geography.

“I really want to put State College on the map—literally,” geography graduate student Carolyn Fish said. “So much open-source mapping is centered in large cities, such as New York, Washington and San Francisco.”

Fish initially learned about Maptime via Twitter and got involved with Maptime Boston during the summer of 2014. Not long after that, geography senior Marissa Defratti attended a presentation by Maptime co-founder Lyzi Diamond at the North American Cartographic and Information Society (NACIS) meeting in Pittsburgh. “I met with [Diamond] after the presentation and we talked about starting up a group in State College,” Defratti said.

“I really like Maptime’s philosophy of focusing on beginners. I want to show people that there is more than ArcGIS and that many cool projects can be accomplished through a variety of mapping platforms,” Defratti said.

Anyone interested in mapping and GIS can come and learn how to use open-source online mapping platforms and learn how to visualize the data they care about.

“Students and anyone from the community are welcome to join: librarians, data managers for the municipality, people who enjoy outdoor activities. Even if someone has no idea how to use GIS, but they are interested in learning, we want them to come and learn,” Defratti said.  “We see this as an opportunity to connect locals and students.”

Fish added, “Absolutely no experience is necessary. We are looking forward to teaching you how to quickly make Web maps and build technical skills with the free open source mapping technologies.”

“While we are two women running the Maptime chapter here, in general it is fairly male-dominated. I would love to see some more female mappers joining in.  Kids are welcome, too. We have crayons,” Fish added, noting that middle-school-age kids would be able to participate in using the open-source mapping technologies.

Maptime was started by several mapmakers in the San Francisco area in 2013. Since then, the group, dedicated to creating and learning new open-source mapping technologies, has spread to dozens of cities all over the world from the U.S. to Switzerland to South Africa to Australia. The goal of Maptime is to learn new open-source mapping tools and is meant to be open to everyone, especially beginners. Learn more about the Maptime movement visit online.

The club founders say they plan to meet monthly.  The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 24, at the New Leaf Initiative, 243 S. Allen St., Suite 337, State College, Pennsylvania. To attend, register at and bring a laptop computer.

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Last Updated February 18, 2016