Staff Appreciation, Smart Phones, and GeoHunts


On Monday, May 12, Geography’s Executive Officer Mo Lovegreen and her sister Kathy Scheidemen, MSO of the Earth Research Institute (ERI), came up with the idea of having a staff GeoHunt competition as part of Staff Appreciation Week. In order to keep things “in house,” they also invited staffers from the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB) who share Ellison Hall with us to join in.

So, what’s a GeoHunt? According to Bryan Karaffa, an IT Technician in Geography, a GeoHunt combines elements from scavenger hunts and geocaching. Using maps downloaded on smart phones, teams are challenged to navigate to designated points and to then solve riddles that lead to new locations and more riddles. Brian and Geography major Mladen Popovic organized a terrifically successful GeoHunt during Geography’s 40th anniversary celebrations, and Mo and Kathy figured that a similar game would help the staff of Ellison Hall to bond together and simply have a good time.

And so they did. Some staffers were concerned about the fact that a GeoHunt presupposes that you have a smart phone, know how to use a GPS device using your smart phone, have a fair idea of how to use the Interactive Campus Map that the Geography Department developed, and are fit enough to walk 2-3 miles at a brisk pace. However, only one person on each team needed to have a clue about using a smart phone, GPS, and ICM, and staffers with physical handicaps were given honorable discharges.

Yes, the outcome was predictable–the race was won by the lean, mean, ICB team. Well, they’re Army sponsored, “interdisciplinary teams of biologists, chemists, physicists, psychologists, physicians, and engineers” (source) who are gung ho and fit by definition – no fair (at least from the point of view of ERI and Geography staff), but hats off to them anyway!

Geography staff gave the competition a good shot and came in second, despite marching to the tune of “We are the Champions,” which Connie Padilla gamely blasted out with her phone. ERI staffers muttered about a supposed glitch in the answer codes, but, at the end of the hunt, everyone agreed that it had been fun – not to mention good exercise.

So, did ERI, ICB, and Geography staffers feel appreciated? You betcha. And the great pizza lunch that Mo and Kathy laid on afterwards was also greatly appreciated.

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was GeoHunt

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