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Posted on October 7th, 2013

Back to School – Carolina BBQ

I hail from the Midwest where meats slow-cooked over wood and covered in a rich red sauce are commonplace. Now I reside in Texas where everything is brisket based and the red sauce isn’t too far off from Kansas City style, but with a little less kick. However, I’ve always loved that Carolina style, pulled pork and vinegar sauce – I may have to pause the writing of this article to go grab some ‘cue right now!

“GIS and South Carolina Barbecque: A Laboratory Exercise” is an interesting article on barbecue restaurant placement in South Carolina (SC) where the authors set out to look at regional cuisine and specifically the importance of barbecue to the South. As important to southern regionality as music, literature, religion and dialect, barbecue speaks to the history and cultures of our past. This study was designed to facilitate a lab-like atmosphere for undergraduates in order to understand, use and appreciate GIS as a tool for community development. As it was designed to facilitate students’ use of GIS, specifically ArcView, the focus is on training and use of the software, the construction of an experimental design and the analysis of a dataset.

The exercise incorporates seven main themes: locating and downloading shapefiles of publically available data on county boundaries, city and highway locations and demography; the registration of data layers; establishment of topological relationships; quality control of databases; linking attribute data to spatial layers; performing spatial searches; and providing regional perspectives of SC barbecue.

An illustration of various barbecue sauces linked to restaurant location

Data analysis begins with the construction of hypotheses built on student’s logical assumptions about regional demographics. These assumptions are then tested by the students using the various shapefiles they downloaded. Questions that were developed and addressed include: is county population less important to an owner’s decision to locate the restaurant than to traveler clientele; does seating capacity support this assertion; does seating capacity vary as distance from a main highway increases;  and are restaurants that support take-out located within a smaller buffer around main roads.

The students then have to consider other questions that aid them in building their GIS model. These issues include the number of counties, restaurants and highways considered; which counties have the highest number of restaurants and highest capacity for service; and how many restaurants are dependent on interstate traffic for clientele. The authors noted that students enjoyed the exercise, and that this enjoyment not only attributed to their success in class, but their continued interest in GIS more broadly. In the 7 years since this exercise was developed, the number of students completing the lab increased steadily increased minus a single year dip.

Justin Harmon
Staff Writer

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