Many Shawnee Middle School students will present their projects involving Geographic Information Systems in conferences and STEM competitions in April.

According to SMS geography teacher Cheyenne Branscum, several students on the Geo Team have or will enter competitions including the National Geographic Geo Challenge, the National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair which is April 6 and the Globe Symposium which is online.

Branscum said students already had the opportunity to present their projects at GIS Day at the Capital March 5.

"They were presenting all of their projects and how they have integrated GIS into their projects," Branscum said.

The geography teacher explained GIS is mapping technology than can be applied to multiple professions other than geography.

"It's basically maps and how you can integrate data within maps," she said.

SMS was the only school at GIS Day and it's the first time a school has presented its research.

"We had Representatives, Congress, the Governor came by. We had a couple education advocates come by...So we had a lot of different visitors that passed by and wanted to know and also the other nonprofits and companies," Branscum said. "They said that we were the most unique group there."

Several students aging from 11-13 years old presented their projects and attended GIS Day. They included: sixth graders Olivia Brem, Lillian Brown, Corrian Jepsen and Daisy Meeks, seventh graders: Rylan Coker, Rayne Leone, Jessica Smith and MacKenzie Taron and eighth graders: Kat Meeks and Kayden Worley.

"They had one where they are creating a biodegradable plastic and so they went out to the lake and surveyed...," Branscum said.

The teacher explained by using the survey method the students were able to create their map that showed them where the pollution in the lake was and what type of pollution. This helps them determine how to make the biodegradable plastic.

Another group presented their project which involves using a Sea Perch or an underwater Remote Operated Vehicle to clean up oil spills. Another group is trying to find plastic eating bacteria currently only found in Japan.

Groups have been working on the projects since August and Branscum said by participating at GIS Day students feel better about presenting their research and competing.

"They also now have a better way of articulating their project and they feel a lot more comfortable," Branscum said. "These kids will continue to present at conferences and several of them are entering competitions that they'll be going to soon so this will give them a better opportunity of winning...,"

Branscum explained she is happy to see students take such an interest in science and geography.

"It's excited to see that they're wanting to do something but also that they know that they can," she said.

The Society for Science and the Public funds the Geo Team and Branscum said she is grateful for their help.