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BARBOURSVILLE — Eight Barboursville Middle School students used geography and technology skills to advance as West Virginia state finalists in Esri’s fourth annual ArcGIS Online Competition.

The competition through Esri, a supplier of geographic information system software, gives students an extra opportunity to use the company’s equipment, which is offered free to every school K-12, and to showcase their knowledge of state history.

The state winners are Winnie Bird, Marcus Blanks, Erica Egleton, Mahir Irtiza, Christopher Noel, Colt Smith, Kori Smith and Milla Werthammer, all seventh graders, who created story maps of various locations and events throughout the Mountain State in competition with other middle and high school students.

The students, who are under direction from teacher Molly Fisher, will now go on to compete against other winners from 35 participating states.

“We are so proud of the hard work these students have put into their projects, which showcase not only their knowledge of cutting-edge technology, but what they love most about our state,” West Virginia Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch said in a news release. “When our students are interested enough in a subject to put in the extra time required to participate in a contest like this, we know that we have fostered a lifelong love of learning in that child, and I applaud Ms. Fisher for bringing this innovative tool to her classroom.”

According to the release, students first learn the basic GIS software skills in class, then work on their own to conduct research and present their final projects in the form of a “story map,” or online application.

The students created maps describing West Virginia fairs and festivals, historic Hatfield and McCoy sites, golf courses, restaurants, bridges and other locations.

While the national prize for one high school and one middle school project is typically attendance to an education conference in San Diego in July, the COVID-19 crisis has moved the event online.

The West Virginia Department of Education is in its fourth year of participation in the competition and in cooperation with Esri and the Education Alliance coordinates the state winners.

The Esri technology is available cost-free to students and teachers in West Virginia.

Those interested can find further information at www.wvde.us/middle-secondary-learning/gis/.

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