Friday, December 10, 2010

Students and Staff from GIS Program Join Defense Personnel at Conference in New Orleans

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Students and staff from Washington College’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program joined top national-security partners from government and industry at the GEOINT 2010 Symposium in New Orleans, November 1-4. GEOINT is government-speak for geospatial intelligence, which is playing an ever more prevalent role in the nation’s defense.

GIS program coordinator Stewart Bruce, GIS Educator Samantha Bulkilvish and student interns Tyler Brice ’13 and Corey Stokes ’13 were invited to make a presentation and staff an exhibit booth at the conference, which each year draws more than 3,000 attendees in the fields of homeland security, military intelligence, and defense contracting.

The team was part of a conference breakout session entitled, “Filling the K-16 Pipeline with Geospatial Students: Education Challenges and Opportunities.” Bruce focused on the benefits of a liberal arts education for developing the critical thinking skills needed for geospatial analysis. Combining a liberal arts education with geospatial technology expertise prepares students for important jobs in the national intelligence community, stressed Bruce, who emphasizes to his students that GIS knowledge can apply to a diversity of disciplines.
During the team presentation, students Brice and Stokes presented research projects on 3D visualization and feature extraction using GeoWeb3D (from GeoWeb3D, Inc.) and ENVI EX (ITT Visual Information Solutions), both examples of the professional-grade geospatial software being used in the Washington College lab.

The presentation also highlighted specific enterprises of Washington College’s GIS program, such as its “Maryland Offender Management Systems” geospatial data sharing application. By mapping current locations and criminal offenses of convicted adult and juvenile offenders, the program helps Maryland’s law enforcement officials more effectively allocate resources and work together across jurisdictions to improve public safety.

Brice’s 3D model of the Washington College campus, designed with the use of Google Sketch-Up and Geoweb3D, is a project he has worked on since this past summer. At the conference, NVIDIA Corporation donated to Washington College a $4,000 Quadro FX5800 video graphics card that will enable students in the GIS lab to process the 3D imagery more efficiently. Although he is a biology major, Brice believes GIS is likely to play a role in his career plans. “It seems the rule of thumb is, if you can map it, GIS relates to it,” he said, noting that mapping disease progression or toxin levels in different regions could combine his academic major with what he has learned as a GIS intern.

Brice appreciated the opportunity to be at the prestigious GEOINT Symposium, with high-ranking government officials and officers from all branches of the military in attendance. Stewart Bruce says one of the highest ranking of those officials, the Honorable James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, visited the Washington College booth. “We had a unique opportunity to meet key decision makers in intelligence,” he added.

Accompanying the Washington College group were Chuck Benton, a teacher at Dover Area High School, and two of his GIS students there – Alex Miller and Michael Miller. The head of the Technology Department at the high school, Benton also works as a secondary education associate in the GIS lab at Washington College, where he helps design curriculum for the K-12 school environment. Curriculum developed by the GIS team at Washington College is used to teach high school courses at Dover as well as other schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Other colleges and universities that sent representatives to the symposium included George Mason University, Penn State, University of Missouri, Virginia Tech, University of Redlands, University of Mary Washington, University of Denver, and James Madison University.

The GEOINT 2010 Symposium was hosted by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). Both USGIF and defense contractor SAIC provided sponsorship support for the Washington College students, covering the costs of hotels, airfare and meals. Stewart Bruce acknowledged the value of these relationships, affirming that “the support of USGIF and SAIC has been very much appreciated, and we continue to support both of these organizations by working with K-12 schools to educate the next generation of geospatial analysts that are so critical to aiding in our nation’s defense.”

Photos: Top, Max Baber, Director of Academic Programs at the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) poses with Washington College students Corey Stokes '13 and Tyler Brice '13. Middle, Stokes staffs the College's information table at the Symposium.
Bottom, Brice's 3D map of the College campus.

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