CWU News

CWU Geography Student Takes Honors in International AAAS Poster Competition

Gavin Schag, a McNair Scholar at Central Washington University, received an honorable mention at the 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Student Poster Competition held earlier this year in Boston.

The AAAS Annual Meeting is a widely recognized global science gathering, bringing thousands of scientists, engineers, policymakers, educators, and journalists together to discuss the most recent developments in science and technology.

“Receiving the award was no doubt a huge validation for all the sacrifices and hard work I put in over the last four years," said Schag, a senior majoring in geography. "I could have never accomplished any of this without the support of my friends, family, and specifically, the CWU geography faculty.

Schag, who will receive his bachelor of science degree this June, was the only awardee from Washington State, and the only student from a small public institution, instead of a major research institution or exclusive private university.  In addition, as an undergraduate, he was competing with master's and doctoral students.

His poster, "UAV Photogrammetry: Structure from Motion Data Evaluation for DEM Applications," presented in the Technology, Engineering and Math category, detailed his research analyzing two different methods for modeling elevation. A McNair scholar, Schag's research has potential for improving numerous commercial and scientific applications.

In 2012, Schag was recruited to CWU to play rugby; he scrummed for four years on CWU's top-ranked team. However, on the academic side, he was always interested in the interface between environmental topics and computer science. The geography major allowed him to pursue both interests through their Geographic Information Science (GIS) specialization. In addition, Schag has worked as a GIS technician for three different faculty, and received a minor in Energy Studies.

“It’s been a real honor and pleasure to work with Gavin," said Robert Hickey, geography professor.  "He came to CWU as a jock and first-generation college student without a whole lot of direction.  He’s leaving on a well-defined trajectory toward a rewarding and interesting career.”

Schag is originally from Lafayette, California, and is a graduate of Acalanes High School.  He is headed to San Diego State University this fall to work, fully funded, on a MS thesis examining change detection using low altitude drone photography.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,
May 9, 2017