Rob Kraft – Program Manager, California

Photo of Rob KraftPosition: Program Manager at BAE Systems, Inc.

What was your favorite class in K-12? Economics in junior high, followed closely by Social Studies and then by recess in K-6th! [No, we did not have a dedicated Geography class in K-12!]

How did you first learn about and/or use GIS? Before it was widely called “GIS”, I learned about GIS in Penn State’s Geography Department in 1988 when they offered it as one of the four Geography specializations. Embarrassingly enough for this forum, I eschewed that track in favor of Planning & Applied Geography (aka Urban Planning and Regional Development), which is still my hobby.

Name one thing you love about GIS and/or geography: The foremost thing I love about geography (and what I always mention) is how applicable and pervasive geography is in today’s world. The field of Geography is so malleable that is can be applied to many, many, fields of study in the physical & social sciences, business, government & policy and anywhere folks apply ‘data science’. Global Navigation Satellite Systems, the open data movement and smart devices have really driven a resurgence in Geography in today’s world. The Internet of Things, Smart Cities, Data Science, Autonomous Vehicles and many societal issues & policies, all rely heavily on Geography, GIS, spatial and temporal data alignment and geospatial standards (go OGC!).

Why did you want to volunteer as a GeoMentor? I truly believe in the Geography Week & GIS Day program so I have been volunteering in my kids’ classrooms each year to be a guest speaker since 2012. Every year at our initial parent teacher meetings, I always ask if I can present during Geography week. I use a Geography topic or GIS to reinforce a current curriculum topic, which helps the teacher… I have never been turned away! We also have an analogous effort at work called “Partners in Education”, which is our geospatially-focused STEM outreach program. So, for me, it is a way to share my love of Geography, connect with my kids and their friends AND facilitate our agency’s STEM outreach mission.

If someone asked you why they should learn about GIS and/or geography, how would you respond in one sentence? GIS and Geography are foundational and pervasive throughout society and business today with the ubiquity of Global Navigation Satellite Systems, smart devices, open data and data science: Geographers and GIS experts are needed everywhere!