As the local winner of the Esri Young Scholars Award, Bandung Institute of Technology student Tombayu Amadeo Hidayat was given an opportunity to present his work at the 2016 Esri User Conference in San Diego, California.

During the week, Tombayu met Esri founder and President Jack Dangermond, made lifelong friendships with other Young Scholars from around the world, and got to experience all that San Diego – and the Esri UC – had to offer. This is his story.

By Tombayu Amadeo Hidayat

Friday 24 June

After a comfortable 18-hour flight, I arrived in San Diego around 1pm local time. Luckily, I had a direct flight, so there was no need to make any airport transfers. The immigration process was smooth, I claimed my baggage, and voila! I took my first steps on mainland America!

San Diego was really beautiful; the weather was perfect. It was summer, but the breeze was so cool and comforting. I didn’t feel any jet lag at all, and with a thirst to explore San Diego, I took a nice leisurely stroll downtown, before eventually grabbing an early night – to make sure I was ready for the first day of the Esri Education Conference.

Saturday 25

Before the beginning of the Esri Education Conference I met Yingwei, a PhD student from the National University of Singapore, and Fatma, a student from Malaysia – both fellow Esri Young Scholars. We headed straight to the Marriot Marquis Hotel, where the conference was being held, and quickly settled in to make sure we didn’t miss any of the great plenary sessions.

One speaker who really inspired me was Dave Zaboski, an artist and animator with no background at GIS at all. Isn't it weird? The biggest GIS education conference in the world opened by an artist, instead of a standard GIS professional. Dave talked about creativity. What makes a creator different. What do creators do to be creative? With the ease of access to GIS nowadays, anyone can use the technology. But what makes the GIS professionals different? Creativity. Just like, anyone can drive a car, but there’s something that makes F1 drivers special.

I enjoyed all the great lightning talk sessions, but the highlight of the day was meeting other Esri Young Scholars from other countries: Spain, Romania, Norway, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, South Korea and many more. They were really open-minded, very welcoming, talkative… and the curiosity didn’t just come from my side – they wanted to learn more about Indonesia as well!

Sunday 26

The second day of the Esri Education Conference – there were so many plenary sessions to choose from and a variety of themes that all looked amazing. Though I attended several plenary sessions, I think the highlight of the day was the presentation delivered by Sarah Williams, a professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I was amazed at how she used GIS technology to help improve public transportation in Nairobi, Kenya. By leveraging the power of crowdsourcing to create maps, she was able to analyse the movement of pedestrians and cars. In addition, the subway-style map she presented was such a big hit. Thousands of people now use it extensively, and many more cities are starting to adopt the method to create similar maps for their own public transit system.

There was also an education expo that showcased various organisations and institutions – an event that gave me the opportunity to explore today’s lessons further and make more new connections.

Monday 27

Today was the first day of the 2016 Esri User Conference, with the plenary held in the San Diego Convention Centre – one of the most cavernous buildings I’ve ever been in. Walking from corner to corner, it feels like you’ve travelled two or three blocks – it is that huge!

The conference was opened by the great man of GIS, Jack Dangermond. He delivered a presentation discussing the future GIS, and highlighted how the technology is being used in a wide variety of industry sectors – demonstrating the creativity of ArcGIS users around the globe. I was amazed.

Another inspiring story came from a pair of digital archaeologists at Sweden’s Museiarkeologi Sydost (Kalmar County Museum). They delivered a presentation explaining how they integrated GIS to uncover a hidden archaeological site in Sweden. They even taught a dog about GIS to help them during the excavation process!

Another highlight of the day was the Map Gallery, where us Young Scholars got the chance to showcase our projects. We also had the opportunity to network with other visitors to the event, and it was cool that some were quite interested with my project.

Tuesday 28

On the second day of the Esri UC there were a whole range of plenary sessions and workshops to choose from. I selected the ‘Introduction to Python’ and ‘Inspiring maps’ sessions. I always wanted to have some coding skills – even just the basics – so the Python lessons were valuable, however, it was the second session on cartography that was definitely the day’s highlight – and maybe a little bit life changing!

Some of Esri’s best cartographers led the session, and not only were they talented but funny as well. They showcased their coolest maps and gave us tips, tricks and steps on how to create our own maps. So many lessons learned! I aspire to make maps like they do.

Wednesday 29

I was still thinking about the two cartography guys from the session I attended yesterday, so I returned to another cartography session with them, the ‘Thematic map designing” workshop – and yes, they were still funny and cool! So many design inspirations for the future!

For us Esri Young Scholars, this was a big day for us as well as we were presented with our respective awards and got to meet Jack Dangermond face to face! We had a small talk, and also took a group photo together.

Thursday 30

This was the last day of the UC, and as always, there were some workshops I attended. However, the highlight, of course, was the closing party at Balboa Park.

It’s a huge, beautiful natural space, and Esri booked the whole place just for us, the UC participants! There were many shows and plenty of entertainment, and we were also treated to a wide variety of food.

San Diego is such a great city, and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to attend the UC and visit California. Thank you so much, Esri Indonesia – this was a life-changing experience!