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Bizarre Map Challenge

Cast your vote in the nationwide map design competition sponsored by SDSU's geography department.
Voting in the Bizarre Maps Challenge is open through April 26.
Voting in the Bizarre Maps Challenge is open through April 26.

Bizarre Maps

With health care legislation recently passed, here are the semantics of the debate.
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Weighing Their Words
With health care legislation recently passed, here are the semantics of the debate.
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Click here to see who won the Bizarre Map Challenge.

How would you envisage the state-by-state semantics of the health care debate, the emotional magnitude of a college campus or a chronological history of record-breaking formation skydives?

Visual maps of these complicated concepts are contenders in the first-ever nationwide Bizarre Map Challenge, conceived and coordinated by San Diego State University’s Department of Geography. Ten community college and university undergraduates are competing for the first prize of $5,000 and instant fame in the growing field of geospatial technology.

Voting ends April 26

Public voting began Monday, April 12, and will end at noon (PST) on Monday, April 26. Voting is open to a global audience. An actress in Los Angeles or a high school teacher in Taiwan is equally eligible to vote, but no one may vote more than once.

Ming-Hsiang Tsou, SDSU geography professor, said the goal of the Bizarre Map Challenge is to promote spatial thinking, increase awareness of geographic information systems (GIS) and inspire curiosity about geographic patterns and map representation in students and the broader public.

A rapidly growing field


GIS integrates hardware, software and data for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. Tsou said geospatial technology is one of the fastest-growing career fields with applications in biotechnology, nanotechnology, engineering, public health and the study of global warming.

SDSU is one of 13 national partners in the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand the geospatial workforce. The partners collaborate to provide professional development and teaching/curriculum resources that support geospatial technology programs in two-year colleges across the country.

Promoting GIS awareness

Tsou, in addition to his work with the GeoTech Center, promotes GIS education and awareness in the community. He directed a workshop for high school and community college teachers, and helped develop the curriculum for a GIS course currently offered in seven San Diego Unified School District high schools.

He devised the Bizarre Map challenge as a means to introduce GIS education to an even broader audience. Nearly 80 entrants responded to the website and promotional video created by Tsou’s students to advertise the competition.

The top 10 finalists were selected during the first round of judging by five world-renowned cartographers from the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of Nebraska, Omaha; Syracuse University; Michigan State University; and the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

The maps that secured a spot in the top 10 are a mix of visually striking and innovative topics, patterns and techniques. Their topics range from a California typographic map to a reverse Earth map to star constellations to the top “staycation” destinations in America. One map charts the colonial land parcels of coastal Louisiana in the shape of an alligator’s head; another tracks missed personal connections in Burlington, Vt.; and another reveals shortcuts for getting from Paris to Norway.

First-, second- and third-place winners will be announced Tuesday, April 27, on the Bizarre Map Challenge website.

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