By David Howell
The timing was almost eerie as seven Water Valley High School students at the East Lab completed a three-month project mapping 238 city fire hydrants using global positioning technology.
Their field work included a visit to each fire hydrant in town, working an hour each day, where they used a handheld GPS device to mark and place each city hydant on a map.
The months of work culminated with a 20 minute presentation outlining the benefits of their work.
This presentation started with scenes from the tramatic 1984 tornado that struck Water Valley a heavy blow. Their point, if a devestating natural disaster struck this town again, this project would be a valuable asset to city officals.
Several days later, a rural town in Greensburg, Kansas sustained the exact type of damage that erased many landmarks.
The student team performed a trial run of the presentation for the Water Valley Rotary Club several days before traveling to Jackson to compete with four other schools across the state.
The team earned a first place finish in this conference. The win earned the East Lab a $2,800 GPS system, a brand new laptop computer for the lab and GPS computer software.
The project, named MARS (Mississippi Area Remapping Strategies), was funded from a grant obtained from the University of Mississippi and was coordinated with the City of Water Valley.
Using a video presentation, the students outlined the project in a 20 minutes presentation. Students participating included Christine Tidwell, Amber Boyles, Stephen Singleton, John Rue, Klye DeHetie, Jeffrey Bell and Dustin LaCook.
One of the goals of the project, as explained in the presentation, was to mark the longtitude and latitude of each of the fire hydrants.
Before work could begin, the students, accompanied by Water Valley Bill Norris, attended a two-day training program at Northwest Community College, learning how to use GPS and GIS technology. The class, described as “intense and demanding” offered basic training before the work began.
“They did a heck of a job and the city very much appreciates it, said Water Valley Water and Waste Superintendent Morris Surrette.
“The city would have had to pay $10,000 to $15,000 to do this project,” Surrette continued. “This was a money saving device for us.”
It took them several weeks, and weekends, some of them working after school hours to get this done, Surrette continued.
“The city is in the thinking process of getting a GIS. What they did by doing this for us gave us a jumpstart on this project.”
During a three month period of field work, the seven students marked each fire hydrant – giving an address, age, and amount of water flow available for each hydrant. Their research also includes the company who manufactured the hydrant and part types.
High School teachers Brenda Gulledge and Liz Reynolds were the teacher sponsors for the project.
“This is not the end of the MARS Project for Water Valley,” said Liz Reynolds, Water Valley High School teacher. “This is just the kick-start. We hope to be involved with numerous city and county projects, possibly plotting water mains or manholes.”