Viscan YouthMappers

The VSU College of Engineering and Technology (CET) is proud to send three senior geodetic engineering students who are members of the Viscan YouthMappers (VYM) to join the 10-day 2023 YouthMappers Leadership Fellows Summit in Montego Bay, Jamaica next year.

The VYM President John Noli Cris Pomentil and two of the VYM members namely Jean Garciano Pepito and Carolina I Maglasang Balmoria are among the five representatives in the Philippines who will be participating in the summit to be held from January 3 to 13, 2023.

These students will be granted a travel subsidy of Php 600,000.00 from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) GeoCenter which shall cover their visa, airfare, lodging, and meal allowances during their two-week stay in Jamaica.

VYM is a new student organization at VSU that aims to cultivate a generation of young people who will create resilient communities and empower them through the use of important data from geospatial mapping.

Dr. Jannet C. Bencure, the Dean of the CET and the concurrent adviser of this new student organization, revealed that VYM was organized in February this year and was formally recognized and accepted by the university to conduct activities effective August 2022.

"The idea to create a YouthMappers chapter at VSU started when I attended a half-day meeting wherein one of the participants I had the chance to talk with presented about YouthMappers. I was intrigued. When I came back home, I googled about YouthMappers and found out that we can join the organization. That’s the time when I started to establish a unique academic interest group at our university. I found this to be a good opportunity for my students to apply the things they learn in the classroom," recalled the VYM adviser.

The main goal of the VYM is to capacitate the members on how to do geo-mapping, which has numerous applications for risk reduction, disaster management, and many other areas of sustainable community development.

According to Dr. Bencure, they already started to map the Leyte province and put it into OpenStreetMap, a geographic database that is accessible online throughout the world.

"We mapped out small houses. We overlaid it and identified the hazards and how many houses will be vulnerable to it. We mapped the fire hydrants. Next, we mapped the vulcanizing shops, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), restaurants, gasoline stations, water accessibility, and even agricultural commodities," the CET Dean revealed.

VYM is already doing extension programs and partnerships with the town of Inopacan, Leyte. Recently, selected VYM officers conducted training for the youth in rural barangays on basic geo-mapping workshops. In this training, the participants mapped the resources in Brgy. Tinago in Inopacan, Leyte to help them boost their agri-aqua tourism projects.

The inspiration behind the VYM chapter of VSU is rooted in the international university association on mapping resilience named YouthMappers which was established in 2014 and launched in November 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, United States.

The YouthMappers is a global community of university-student-led chapters that aim to create and use open geographic data that directly address locally defined development challenges worldwide.

The selected students who will participate in the YouthMappers' summit will be immersed in programming and training that is focused on mapping for climate resilience, activating youth leadership, and promoting equity and inclusion with the mentoring of international experts in the field. 

Applicants for the summit were chosen based on their strong leadership and communication skills, and technical abilities in open mapping. 

The founding partners of YouthMappers are Texas Tech University, George Washington University, and West Virginia University, and the fiscal and administrative lead university is Arizona State University.

Among 300 applicants, there are 68 student finalists from 28 countries who will join the summit next year. 

Meanwhile, the VSU Department of Geodetic Engineering (DGE) scored another major win with two of their students bagging the highest awards during the online mapping activity of the GEOPOTENTIAL 2022 BOUNDLESS: Into the Realm of Possibilities held via Zoom on October 29, 2022.

Joan B. Remutin bested all participants in the said virtual geo-mapping competition together with Ivy Perez who placed second. Both of them are founding members of the VYM chapter here at VSU. 

The VYM now has about 100 members. Dr. Bencure hopes to extend the membership not just to the geodetic engineering students but also to the other degree programs at VSU that would like to learn about the importance of geo-mapping for various purposes.

[Graphics by Joseph Kenneth M. Labastida]

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