Faculty, students work to incorporate geospatial technologies into classes

student works with computerUnder a new grant, SUNY Oswego faculty and students have begun research that will result in teaching modules that make use of such new technologies as satellite imaging of the earth and geographic information systems.

The teaching modules can be used here and elsewhere in teaching college science courses and training professionals.

Dr. Jack Gelfand, Oswego’s director of research administration and development, is the project director for the $45,000 venture, which is funded by the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology at Cayuga Community College. It is the first project in SUNY Oswego’s partnership with the NASA-sponsored institute located at the James T. Walsh Regional Economic Center in Auburn.

Geospatial technology helps create “smart maps” that display layers of different kinds of information and allows the information to be manipulated. “The institute has a mandate to educate people in the use of this technology,” Gelfand said.

The overall project at SUNY Oswego encompasses four subprojects involving energy development, water resources, severe weather modeling and emergency management.

“Each of the four projects will produce a CD or DVD that will include a lecture or lectures, handouts and reading materials to be inserted in certain topical courses,” Gelfand said.

For instance, Alok Kumar of the physics faculty is working with Gelfand and student Wes Laurion to develop a module on siting energy generating facilities with respect to their impact on local economic activities and emergency preparedness. The teaching module will be used in Kumar’s course on energy and the environment and will be transportable to other schools.

Gelfand’s co-directors on the overall project, in addition to Kumar, are David Valentino of the geology faculty; Scott Steiger, Robert Ballentine and Steven Skubis of the meteorology faculty; and Nancy Bellow of the Office of Business and Community Relations.

“We will be able to support eight students over two summers, this summer and next summer,” Gelfand said. Students already participating, besides Laurion, are Steven Smith and Josh Valentino, working with Valentino on the water resources project, and Eric Wenke, working with the meteorologists on severe weather modeling.

Valentino’s project involves studying the impact of geologic faults on the accumulation of ground water. The meteorology project will apply satellite remote sensing to weather forecasting in the Great Lakes region. Just getting under way is Bellow’s project to develop training materials for emergency response personnel in the use of geospatial information technologies.

The Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology is a nonprofit organization that aims to apply such technologies as satellite and aircraft-based imaging of the earth, geographic information systems, global positioning systems and visualization technologies.

Among its several roles are teaming with government agencies on various projects, working with educational institutions like SUNY Oswego to show teachers how to teach geospatial information technologies in their classrooms, and partnering with businesses to expand the use of these technologies in the community.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Mapping the world—Wes Laurion, a sophomore majoring in adolescence education and physics at SUNY Oswego, works with geographic information system software in the Snygg Hall computer lab this summer. He is one of four Oswego undergraduates currently working on a project funded by the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology.

(Posted: Aug 22, 2007)