Monday, February 4, 2013

Sam Kruger - Internship at City of Janesville

Name: Samuel Krueger
Major & Minor: Environmental Geography
UWEC Standing and Expected Graduation Date: Senior: December 2012
Interests and Hobbies: Unnecessarily competitive yard game tournaments, UWEC intramurals, the Packers, ice fishing, cartography, being active with friends.

Internship Employer: City of Janesville, WI – Community Development Department
Length of Employment: Summer 2012

Basics : Was your internship paid or unpaid? Did you register for credits? Why or Why not? Did you create the internship or was it advertised? Where did you hear about it? The GIS Analyst summer internship in Janesville was a paid internship. I did not register for any credits; however, I did not consider the opportunity, something I would advise future students to definitely take advantage of. The position was advertised through Professor Hupy’s internship email list. I am originally from Oregon WI; 25 minutes north of Janesville so applying for this summer internship was a no brainer for me.

What were your specific job responsibilities?
I was hired at an interesting time in the community development department at City Hall. Surprisingly, the GIS department was extremely small, comprised of just a GIS Coordinator and one GIS Analyst. The former GIS Analyst took another job which allowed me to step in as the temporary number two GIS person. This transition proved to be extremely beneficial as I was able to get my hands on a variety of GIS related projects.

I spent the majority of my time analyzing areas within the Janesville Municipality that were in the greatest need for sidewalk construction. A large portion of the city as well as many surrounding neighborhoods were not equipped with sidewalks, most did not even have plans for future sidewalk construction. A community sidewalk committee had been formed by city council after the 7 year project to build 63 miles of sidewalk had come to a halt. The program was disbanded and restructured due to large community skepticism on proposed construction areas. While some residents saw the benefits of have having a more connected city, opponents to the plan did not want to pay for or maintain the new sidewalks.

One aspect of this project consisted of analyzing seven site suitability variables which were determined by the 12 person community sidewalk committee and also approved by city council members. These variables were heavily debated among council and committee members however a consensus was finally reached. The sidewalk variables were defined as follows; proximity to schools (1/4 & 1/2 mile buffer), proximity to transit bus stops (1/4 & 1/2 mile buffer), proximity to public facilities such as churches, parks, clinics and retail centers (1/4 & 1/2 mile buffer), street class (major arterial, minor arterial, collector), existing sidewalk gaps, housing density (>4 units & <2 units), and pedestrian/automotive accidents. The GIS analysis was performed on each individual sidewalk segment for each city parcel. An index ranking was then applied to sidewalk parcel segments depending on their spatial location to each of the seven variables described above.

The community sidewalk committee was in charge of developing the ranking system. Higher scores were given to sidewalk areas closer to schools, public facilities and transit stops, higher accident risk areas, locations with existing sidewalk gaps, areas adjacent to high density housing and streets classified as high use. For example, sidewalk segments within a 1/4 mile of a school were given a ranking of 20 while areas within a 1/2 mile were given a ranking of 15. Based on the seven criteria, the highest possible ranking was 100. Sidewalk construction is being analyzed by zone with there being 9 different city zones; zones 1 and 2 are referenced in the three buffer analysis maps below. These visual tools directly assisted in the sidewalk committee's analysis and subsequent recommendation on sidewalk construction priority around the city.

After the total rank (out of 100) was calculated for each individual property segment based on the seven criteria, the data was then classified using a natural breaks classification method for five class intervals. The natural breaks method or (Jenks) classification, groups features with similar values while trying to maximize the differences between the means of the five different classes. The final sidewalk committee analysis map is shown below. The committee is now tasked with the difficult decisions of choosing which areas to start construction, what side of the street (if not both) should be constructed, how the project should be financed and what sort of construction time line should be established. In early July, the Janesville City Council ultimately voted to install more than two miles of sidewalk.

By the time we were finished with this project, I was able to get a firm grasp on how policy, procedures and public opinions heavily influenced the course of action within City Hall. This analysis project is just one example of how GIS can be leveraged to address important local community development decisions.

My secondary responsibilities involved updating spatial and attribute inconsistencies within the city’s water and sewer utility network data sets. Performing quality assurance on the GIS utility network layers required the interpretation and comparison of 80 scales to the 2011 aerial photo of Janesville Wisconsin. Asbuilt field inspection books were also referenced as needed. The process of utility QC consisted of panning up and down streets checking both sewer and water utility layers for spatial accuracy as well as populating/updating inaccurate or missing feature attributes. Inaccuracies would then be documented or fixed on the fly. Google Earth street view provided a platform for double checking spatial discrepancies. If a manhole or hydrant was spatially off, I would manually fix the location in the GIS and the accompanying attributes as well. Fixing these discrepancies contributes towards building a more accurate utility network. The goal of this work was to eventually build a complete geometric network within the city of Janesville.

What do you think gave you to edge to get the internship?
Throughout my academic career in Eau Claire, I had created numerous posters powered by ArcMap, GPS and Adobe Illustrator. Before I applied to the Janesville internship, I assembled a collection of my best undergraduate work to be displayed in an online portfolio using Google Blogger, a rather simple but extremely effective blog site. My online portfolio was an incredible resource that allowed me to show the kind of graduate level projects myself and other UWEC geography students are creating.

Throughout the summer, I got to know the city of Janesville GIS coordinator on a more personal level, on my last day he told me straight up why I got the job. Obviously, a solid departmental GPA never hurts; but it was the collection and variety of maps and posters in my online portfolio that really set me apart from other applicants. The student cartography skill set in the UWEC geography department is incredible! Talking about your projects does not do it justice, get those maps/posters online and make sure you can talk about every aspect of them! As for my GIS proficiency, I felt very prepared for the GIS based work this internship required. The professors in the department do an incredible job of preparing you for the working world.
Was it a valuable experience?

Hands down the most valuable job experience I have ever had. Not only did this type of work relate 100% to my major, but it was the most rewarding job I have had yet. The work I was doing was actually being used to facilitate important/controversial city decision within the Janesville community. This internship has also given me insight into how GIS can be leveraged to help solve real life problems, outside of the classroom setting. Using GIS outside of the “cushion” of the Geography department was great for building my confidence as a geographer. If a problem occurred, I was expected to troubleshoot and use help files to find my way out of it. From this internship, I took away a greater understanding of GIS tools, functions and applications.

How did the logistics work for you? Did you have to move?
Luckily, I was able to live at home for the summer and commute to Janesville every day. This was actually a huge factor in my decision making for taking the internship. I was able to gain incredible GIS experience all while living at home and saving cash.

What advice can you give to those who are looking for an internship?

1.)  Start building good relationships with your professors; they could be dynamite references if you first show them you are a hard worker.
2.)  I highly recommend Student-Faculty Research. Based on my interview, employers love to hear about projects besides regular classroom work that you’re going above and beyond for.
3.)    Create an online resume/portfolio where you can showcase your best work. You’re maps will speak for themselves (although you will still need to explain them!) This could be what sets you apart from all the generic resumes, it sure did for me.
4.)    Beginning level GIS internships are not all glamorous, like any job you have to work your way up, be prepared to enter data and watch loading screens. However, getting that first GIS related job under your belt is imperative before you can move on to bigger and better things. You will be surprised how small the GIS world is once you’re in it. GIS professionals know each other, start making good working relationship and they will pay dividends in the future, and NETWORK! Sometimes it’s not all about what you know but who you know!!

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