First responders in Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had no idea they were following the direction of high school students. Working feverishly behind their computers, Leah Keith Houle’s students in Red Bank, TN, created Humanitarian Outreach Team (or “HOT”) maps used by relief organizations attempting to identify safe routes to deliver supplies or evacuate people.
“When all the hurricanes started hitting this year, people came together across the globe to map our devastated cities and islands,” said student Aviana Harris. “By creating HOT maps, we knew we were saving lives. And I was a part of that!”
These high school students learned how to apply open data sharing for humanitarian efforts based on Leah’s fellowship spent mapping three Caribbean Islands for hurricane preparedness. Her geology students now consider surface shape and topography of areas; ecology and biology students look at water and land interfaces; and scientific research students apply the data to modify maps for first responders. Their 1,000+ hours of mapping directly impact relief efforts ranging from earthquakes in Nepal to hurricanes in the Caribbean to escape routes for Syrian refugees. They’ve even supplied NASA’s Planetary Society with mapping of the Archimedes Crater. The global impact of these students caught the attention of Tennessee education administrators, who asked Leah to create a GIS and mapping technology curriculum that was adopted statewide.
Click here to read how students supported Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and here for the school principal’s review of their work.