Association of American Geographers AAG - My Community, My Earth
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GCE MyCOE Youth TechCamps

Learn more about online mapping and geographic technologies! Use them to help YOUR community and environment! Experience a deeper understanding about different places and cultures of the world!


What is this program all about?

Outstanding United States high school students will be selected to form teams with their counterparts in Bolivia, Panama, or South Africa. They will collaborate online and in person at one of three rounds of training events in these countries to address the theme of GeoTechnologies for Climate Change & Environment. If selected, you will be given academic preparation, orientation, cultural exchange activities, mentoring and training in use of geotechnologies such as online mapping, community GIS, mobile GPS, and crowdmapping. Youth work will be featured in an online project fair and showcased at national venues.  

Learn more details in this overview description here.

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Who is eligible?

US Applicants must be United States citizens and be high school students at least 15 years old by June 1, 2014 and no older than 18 years old by September 1, 2014. You should be attending at least one semester of high school after the exchange program, in other words you will still be in secondary school in the Fall of 2014, so typically you should apply no later than your junior year of high school. All participants must have sufficient proficiency in English to participate fully in all exchange activities. No foreign language is required, but it can be helpful to have Spanish skills if you state a preference to travel to the Bolivia or Panama sites  Following the US State Department's guidelines, you are ineligible if you have previously traveled outside the US on any Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs funded program within the past 3 years, or are family members of employees of the State Department or staff of any of the organizations working with the program partners.

International Secondary Students from Bolivia, Panama and South Africa may also apply separately, see guidelines here.

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How do I apply? 

We used a completely online electronic application system. The form included questions about you and your experience and provide you the opportunity to submit an essay to describe why you are interested in participating. Please note that recommendations from teachers or mentors are mandatory as part of the application process. You are applying to all of the countries with your form.  You are asked if you wish to state a preference for which country you most would like to visit, however the program will assign all accepted participants to their sites.  No foreign language is required, as the program is officially conducted in English. However, if can be helpful if you have Spanish language skills and prefer to visit Bolivia or Panama.


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How are participants selected?

Participants will be chosen according to the following criteria:

  • demonstrate an interest in the partner country or countries
  • demonstrate an interest and familiarity with geographic technology
  • demonstrate leadership aptitude and service to the community
  • exhibit creativity, flexibility, maturity, integrity, good social skills, and open-mindedness
  • have the motivation necessary to be active and successful exchange participants

A review committee will assess all applications after the deadline and finalists will be selected for an interview by phone or Skype.  Preference will be given to students who have had little or no previous opportunity to travel overseas. It is desirable that a few participants are from the same town or region so that they can support each other upon their return home. AAG will recommend to the State Department a final list of 30 participants and 5 alternates for approval by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  

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Where will I go if I am chosen?

The three international sites are:

Please read more about these locations on these pages in the links provided. Remember that you are applying to all of the countries with your application.  On the form, you will be asked if you wish to state a preference for which country you most would like to visit, however the program will assign all accepted participants to their sites.  No foreign language is required, as the program is officially conducted in English. However, if can be helpful if you have Spanish language skills and prefer to visit Bolivia or Panama.

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What will I learn about?

The program's learning objectives are threefold: First, you will increase knowledge about climate change and the environment, particularly how the impacts of climate change are being anticipated and experienced in developing regions. The set of the three host sites provides a varied group representing different kinds of consequences of climate change expected in different places, while remaining coherent to the unifying theme of climate change. Learn more by exploring our country sites for Bolivia, Panama, and South Africa as well as our learning resources about Climate Change.

Secondly, you will improve technology skills with online mapping, project collaboration, problem-solving and communication. By the end of the program, you will have better awareness and familiarity with online geographic technology tools and their specific uses and applications in your assigned country, as well as of how online mapping is used on a global scale for addressing various anticipated consequences of climate change. You will also have developed a specific process and step-by-step action plan on how to use online mapping technology to solve a problem in your community, working together as a team with other students.

Finally, you will increase understanding, including greater appreciation of cultural differences, as well as development of leadership attitudes, both explicitly with respect to particular lesson material, but also implicitly because of the team learning approach. You will be able to relate your project to what others are doing to solve similar issues and demonstrate an understanding of how your project can be utilized as a model for other problems at the local, national, or global level.

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What is expected of me if I am chosen?

If you are chosen among the 30 US participants, you will work with our team over the next year to learn how to use geographic technologies for climate change themes and implement a community project in collaboration with counterparts at one of the international program sites.  You will need to have regular access to internet and be able to respond throughout the duration of the program begining with online orientation in Spring of 2014.  You will also need to get a passport, attend the TechCamp in the Summer of 2014, and finalize a project together with your team using online collaboration technologies during the Fall of 2014.  Our team of instructors and mentors will guide you throughout the process.  For a timeline of activities, please refer to this page.

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How will the program help prepare me with orientation?

After selection, participants will be asked to prepare very short video introductions of themselves for posting and sharing across the groups. Guidelines and a model introduction will be provided as support to format, content, and length.  These introductions will populate a GoogleSites wiki that will be used throughout the entire program period and the exercise will also help you become familiar with its use. You will also attend or view recordings of three webinars on orientation topics:

  • What is GCE? What is MyCOE? What are TechCamps? -an introductory webinar to familiarize participants with the program and especially their role and expectations over the year;
  • What is Community GIS? What is Online GIS? How can I use it? - introduction by webinar to the use of geographic technologies for community based projects; level out familiarity with the use of key online geographic tools, to ensure basic understanding of the underlying technology for the camps; and
  • Logistical Overview and Parent / Teacher Program Orientation - webinar meeting to brief you about remaining practical issues for travel and to address any additional questions from adults.  

In addition, as you depart for the international site, you will stopover for Gateway Orientations in a US departure city. This will be an in-person, one and half day orientation, including an introduction to your host country and intercultural activities on the weekend prior to traveling to your host country. For US students traveling to Bolivia, this will be held in Miami, Florida; to Panama, in Houston, Texas; and to South Africa, in Washington, DC.  

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Where will I stay and how will I get there?

Travel logistics and costs will be covered by the program commence immediately upon finalization of selection of participants to ensure that all US students have passports, visas, etc. You will travel from your closest home airport to the Gateway Orientation departure city, where program staff will meet you at the airport.  The entire group of ten US students to each site will travel together with program staff adults to the foreign site.  We will transfer together to the camp location, to be announced for each site. All youth participants will stay together in the same lodging, including the 10 US participants and 30 international counterparts at each site, along with adult chaperones and staff.  All meals will be organized and paid directly for the group. The State Department offers health insurance for participants and AAG also maintains an insurance policy for travel participants.

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What will the TechCamps be like?

Each TechCamp will consist of a ten-day, intensive and stimulating, content-rich agenda. The agenda is a daily mix of engaging TechTalks, or brief interactive presentations with Q&A sessions on thematic content; of TechHands sessions giving instruction in technology and tools, whether conducted in the computer lab, or in the field; and TechConnect timeslots for discussion, role playing, practical collaboration training and team-building exercises. The closing session will take the format of a TechTorrent, where the teams will give visual presentations to each other and to invited media, embassy staff, and other community stakeholders. The schedule includes community, cultural, social, and civic activities in balance to the intensive technology training part of the program. Students will keep a personal journal throughout the camp for reflection purposes and to amplify learning potential. Activities include fun team-building exercises, such as simulated community projects to support the development of collaboration skills and seed discussions. Activities are organized for different groupings of students for each session, so that students can work with different individuals at various points during the week. This will allow you to engage with as many international students as possible. A reflection mapping exercise will be conducted as a way to explore further cultural differences as well as to offer training in field data and GPS collection.  A weekend break includes optional community serving mapping activities. Towards the latter days of the camp, you will receive help with communication and presentation skills, including how to communicate with maps and visuals, to prepare for the closing TechTorrent sessions. These final sessions will summarize project activities, prepare your teams for the return home, and consolidate plans for the team community service projects that will be finalized in Fall of 2014.  US embassies, local stakeholders, dignitaries, and other interested attendees will be invited to see your final presentations.

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How will I collaborate on the international team projects?

During the TechCamps you will learn how to use a free online platform to help organize tasks and communicate with your international team members around your project blueprint. You will use this tool to continue to work with and finalize your community projects.  Our staff and host partners will continue to virtually mentor you and teammates throughout this process and may even find additional expertise if your project needs it.  Teams will utilize the long-standing MyCOE model to 1) ask a question related to how their communities experience climate change related to subthemes; 2) observe or collect data, particularly spatial data, crowdsourced data, or other specific input determined during the camp; 3) present and analyze the information with web-based mapping applications; 4) draw conclusions about the results and its meaning for their communities, including positive and negative aspects; and 5) take action by engaging community leaders and/or their schools around their project. Commenting and collaboration around project results across the multiple international sites will be facilitated by our reporting platform.  An Online Project Fair will showcase your work. By the end of 2014, each team will be expected and guided to develop a report of their work in a semi-standardized format along with an abstract, a showcase map (or map animation), and at least one photograph of the group members working in action.  The projects will be included in the MyCOE Youth Leadership Gallery, and also be showcased to broad audiences at international events.

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How can I approach my parents?

We know that your family may need more information about the program and have gathered additional important details on this page here to help explain how the program will ensure safety and guidance for participants throughout the program.

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Who is organizing this?

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) has been organizing educational, scientific, and professional programs for more than 100 years.  This MyCOE GCE Youth TechCamps program is implemented by AAG with funding from the US State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Youth Programs Division under the Global Connections and Exchange Program and under the partnership umbrella of My Community, Our Earth: Geographic Learning for Sustainable Development. Learn more about the US and international organizations offering this program and meet the team putting it all together.

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What happens when?

The deadline for US student applications was January 10, 2014.  Notifications will be made as soon as possible to all selected and nonselected applicants, typically within 4 to 6 weeks. Please also see this calendar page for a timeline of the entire program.

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What if I have other questions?

We are happy to answer any further questions and welcome inquiries by email to

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Global Connections and Exchange 2014 Youth TechCamps: My Community, Our Earth Program 

on Geography, Mapping, Global Climate Change and Environment in Bolivia, Panama, and South Africa