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GeoTech Center picks Gainesville State College as its partner
Growth industry includes GPS technology
Chris Semerjian, left, Gainesville State College Spatial Analysis Laboratory director, speaks about the school’s new GeoTech center Thursday. Also on the panel discussing the center are Lewis Rogers, second from left, director of the school’s Institute of Environmental and Spatial Analysis, college President Martha Nesbitt and Al Panu of the Natural Science Engineering and Technology Division. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville State College will serve as the southeastern hub for the new National Geospatial Technology Center starting in September.

Gainesville State College’s Lewis F. Rogers Institute of Environmental and Spatial Analysis was selected to be one of four academic senior partners nationwide to collaborate with the GeoTech Center headquartered at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The National Science Foundation granted the national GeoTech Center $5 million to increase the quantity and quality of geospatial technicians in the United States by increasing the ability of colleges and universities to educate geospatial technicians.

Geospatial technologies include Geographical Information Systems, Global Positioning Systems, remote sensing and mobile- and location-based services. These systems support common geospatial services such as GPS units in vehicles and GoogleEarth.

Martha Nesbitt, president of Gainesville State College, said Thursday at a news conference held at the college that she’s thrilled Gainesville State’s geospatial institute was chosen to represent the entire Southeast for the national GeoTech Center.

"Our geographic information systems program has truly put Gainesville on the map nationally," she said, adding the new designation will draw students and high-level professionals to the college.

Gainesville State College will receive approximately $360,000 during the first four years of a 10-year partnership with the national GeoTech Center to compensate educators who will contribute to the college’s knowledge in geospatial technology. The grant also will allow the Lewis F. Rogers Institute of Environmental and Spatial Analysis to promote geospatial technology classes and degrees at academic institutions around the Southeast.

According to President George W. Bush’s High Growth Job Training Initiative, geospatial technology was listed among the top three high-technology, high-growth industries in the country and has become a $30 billion-a-year industry.

Lewis F. Rogers, director of the Lewis F. Rogers Institute of Environmental and Spatial Analysis, said Gainesville State’s primary role in the National Science Foundation’s grant is to help other schools in the Southeast develop and improve geospatial degree programs.

"We teach them how to do it hands on," Rogers said. "That’s one of the goals of the center nationally."

Chris Semerjian, director of the environmental and spatial analysis laboratory at Gainesville State College and co-principal investigator on the grant, said geospatial technology can be applied to nearly every academic area, including social sciences.

He said students at Gainesville State College have done geospatial projects to assist the Gainesville Fire Department in determining where it should place new stations to best assist citizens in emergencies. Several undergraduate students at the Gainesville college also have completed a graduate-level "mini-thesis," with some determining exactly where Lake Lanier’s water would flow if the Buford Dam broke.

Semerjian said U.S. institutions must foster growth in the use of multidiscipline geospatial technology to be competitive globally.

"In the United States, the demand for geospatial technicians far exceeds the supply," he said. "Businesses and agencies are concerned that these jobs will be outsourced overseas. Thus, the primary goal of the center is to increase the quantity and quality of geospatial professionals in the United States through the education and training of students, educators and current working professionals."