Mobile Computing | News

GeoScavenge Introduces New Frosh To USC Campus

Original reporting by Susan Bell/USC Dornsife Communication

At lunchtime on August 22, during Welcome Week and orientation for freshmen at the University of Southern California (USC), there were still a lot of things Sidrah Khan and her new friend Jennifer Wang did not yet know about their new school.

A couple of hours later, however, thanks to the first-ever USC GeoScavenge, she knew where to go to get a flu shot, how to get a shuttle bus to the other side of campus, where the most affordable lunch could be found and what astronaut Neil Armstrong had said about the future in his 2005 commencement speech.

That was the day Khan, Wang and about 40 other new USC freshmen loaded a QR code reader into their smartphones, started out at the statue of Tommy Trojan at the center of the campus and headed off on a scavenger hunt. Using a GeoScavenge map, accessible on their devices via a QR scan, they got clues about where to look for the next location on the hunt.

  Students in the USC GeoScavenge used QR codes to get clues and answer questions about sites on the USC campus.
Students in the USC GeoScavenge used QR codes to get clues and answer questions about sites on the USC campus.

Once there, they had to answer multiple-choice questions about it before moving on to the next clue.

The point? To help new students get acquainted with their new classmates at the same time they learned some valuable information about their new school.

The idea came from the university's Spatial Sciences Institute, which passed it on to Melissa Turk, associate director of orientation programs, who said she was happy to add the hunt to the other Welcome Week activities for new students.

"The GeoScavenge is a perfect fit for us," Turk said. "Students get the opportunity to learn the campus on their own. Plus, all these places are now tagged in their phone so, if they get stuck, they have all that information at their fingertips."

Darren Ruddell, assistant professor of spatial sciences, said, "We hope students will look at the map and think about routing — What would be the most efficient route to visit all 23 clues and get back to Tommy Trojan as quickly as possible?"

At the end of the hour, prizes — USB drives and water bottles — went to the four-student teams who got to the most destinations. Khan and Wang also knew what Armstrong had said about the future nine years earlier: "I do not know, but it will be exciting."

And Ruddell even might have gotten a few new students interested in a couple of his department's courses on spatial mapping.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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