OSMapping my Alma Mater

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to contribute to OpenStreetMap more often.  I started out 2012 by mapping my hometown, as the city I currently live in already has  very good coverage.  My next mapping challenge was to map my undergraduate Alma mater, Keene State College in beautiful Keene, New Hampshire.  When I started the mapping project I was surprised about the lack of mapping data contributed for the college and city!

With essentially a blank sheet I used JOSM to digitize (what geographers call tracing) the pathways, parking lots, and athletic fields using the Bing Imagery as a reference layer, while adding a few placemarkers throughout the campus, and finally altering the existing road vector attributes to correctly reflect what was on the ground.  These low-hanging fruits quickly spruced up the map:

The next step was the hardest (not that it was mentally challenging, just that it involved several steps).  I wanted to add all the buildings on campus to the map so the services that now rely on OpenStreetMap had the most accurate representation of the campus as possible.  Anyone who has ever been apart of a digitization project knows that creating a somewhat planimetric building layer can be a tedious task.  Basically, I didn’t want to digitize all the buildings, so I went searching for a layer with the buildings already digitized for me.  After searching the KSC website (and source code) I extracted the geojson layer from KSC’s campus map.  I then opened the geojson layer into Quantum GIS and exported the data to a shapefile.  From this point I converted the shapefile into the OSM format using Merkaator and completed the editing using JOSM.  (Side note:  If anyone knows if it is possible to import a shapefile into JOSM let me know!)  With the buildings now available in an OSM format I could edit the data through JOSM.

After a couple hours of tweaking the original building footprints (including moving the footprints to the rooftop outline, not the oblique outline) and editing some other features I wrapped-up my mapping session with the latest version of KSC’s OSM contribution:

I think most will agree that a couple hours contributing and editing data can drastically improve any part of OpenStreetMap, but there is a larger message here for higher-ed GIS and geo-educators.  Having students in GIS and geo-classes contribute to a campus’ OpenStreetMap can be a great educational tool.  I graduated from KSC eight years ago.  How come a geo-savy student or geo-class didn’t do this over the course of the past few years?!?!

There are plenty of schools that have excellent data in OpenStreetMap (Example 1,Example 2, Example 3, Example 4, Example 5), but there are just as many schools (that have geography departments or GIS programs!) whose OpenStreetMap campus map could be improved very easily (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, Example 4, Example 5)!

If you are a higher-ed geo-educator check out your campus’ OpenStreetMap and get your students to contribute.  They’ll learn about GIS, VGI, and open source while your campus map, and potentially community map, improves!  Everyone wins!

Next, maybe I’ll map my graduate school Alma mater so I can take it off the bad examples list!