Finnish success with young mappers

Posted on | February 14, 2017 | Category: News

Through a targeted project, Finland has succeeded in getting young people interested in mapping. One of them is 19-year old Topi Syrjäläinen, whose map will be used for the Finnish Sprint Championships 2017.

Maps are the most essential part of orienteering, and to secure the next generation of mappers, the Finnish Orienteering Federation (FOF) is running a project to motivate more young people to take up mapping.

FOF receives annually about 200,000 EUR from the Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education for map making. A part of the money is used as support for young mappers. FOF pay a sum of 150 euros per map to mappers below the age of 20.

19-year old Topi Syrjäläinen is one of those who have taken advantage of the project. He has made 10 official maps and more just for fun:

— I think the map project is a great way to encourage young people to try mapping. For me, mapping is a good way to combine both hobby and work. It is a fun challenge trying to make a good map that is both accurate and legible. The best part is when you see others running on your map, Topi Syrjäläinen says.

Topi Syrjäläinen thought his hometown was full of interesting unmapped orienteering areas so, together with his brother, he took up the task:

— I made my first real sprint orienteering map when I was 14 years old. There were so many good places in my hometown Mikkeli without an orienteering map, so together with my bigger brother we decided to start mapping some areas. Before that, I had done some small maps, for instance one from our yard drawn with coloured pencils, he says.

The second map Topi Syrjäläinen made in his home town Mikkeli.

An age span from 10 to 20

In order to get the support, the working time must be “several working days”, so a short updating of an old map is not enough. Almost in every case, the young mapper does both the fieldwork and the OCAD drawing of the map, which also is the case for Topi Syrjäläinen.

The payment of 150 euro can be compared to the level of wages that a young teen can earn in their jobs during a summer holiday. A normal salary for them is about 8-11 euro/hour in Finland. It is not always easy to find an ordinary summer job for teens and then mapping is a very good alternative for young active orienteers – both as a job but also for training. The project started in 2007 and has attracted both girls and boys in an age span from 10 to 20-years old. The project has grown to a stable level with around 50 new maps a year:

The map that a young mapper makes can be an orienteering map, a sprint map, an MTBO map, a SkiO map or a map that covers for instance a schoolyard in scale 1:1000-1:2500. A schoolyard is a safe terrain for learning both orienteering and map making. Out of the maps produced by young mappers, approximately 40% are schoolyard maps, 40% sprint maps and 20% are orienteering maps.

Topi Syrjäläinen has made several sprint maps, one of which has even been approved for the Finnish Sprint Championships:

— My maps have been used for both trainings and competitions. There have been regional sprint championships and pre-races for national sprint championships on some of them. This year, one of my maps will be used for the national sprint championships, so that is really a big thing for me, he says.

Besides mapping Topi Syrjäläinen is an active orienteer as well.

Help from map mentor

It can be a bit overwhelming to begin mapping, so if the club wants to be a part of the project, they have to provide a mentor for the young mapper. Topi Syrjäläinen liked to explore mapping by himself and the map responsible in his club, Helsingin Suunnistajat, is more of a partner who suggests good areas to be mapped:

— I have learned to make maps from my own experience as an orienteer and from reading all kind of symbol specifications and guides from the IOF. For newcomers in mapping it might be good if you could get some help on how to use OCAD. But for me, it was just about trying different things in OCAD and learning by doing, Topi Syrjäläinen says.

It can be difficult to engage new people in mapping, but Topi Syrjäläinen thinks the clubs could be a bit more outreaching:

— I think many do not know how to map and do not bother to learn, mostly because many places already have lots of good maps. Maybe clubs could do more to instruct new mappers. Instead of hiring other people for the mapping projects, they could ask if someone in their own club is interested in doing the job, he says.

The FOF will continue to encourage and support young mappers. Even though auto-generated maps get better and better they will probably never replace a human being, and the project will ensure that there will be good mappers in the future too.

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