University of North Georgia students should gain more opportunities in the growing field of geospatial technology through a new 3-year $609,739 National Science Foundation grant designed to start two new programs on the Gainesville campus.
The grant, which begins July 1, will help the university develop a new associate degree and a certificate program in the technology, which has a variety of uses, including GPS, commonly used by drivers who need directions from one location to another, according to Jeff Turk, director of the UNG Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis.
“These geospatial tools are really revolutionizing society,” Turk said. “The obvious one is the GPS in our cars. Whenever we need to drive somewhere, we punch in that address. It tells us how to get there.
“We feel that students will be attracted to high prospective employment opportunities and the uses of technologies such as satellite systems, light detection and ranging, unmanned aerial vehicles, computer-aided design, surveying total stations and other geospatial technologies," he added.
Turk said the programs will prepare students for careers in a number of fields, including land-use planning, flood-plain mapping, environmental protection, precision farming and national security.
He added that the grant will provide funds to develop the curriculum for both a certificate in land surveying and an Associate of Science degree in geospatial engineering and will provide salary for a faculty position for the project.
Initial plans for the certificate program would likely include four classes, as well as prerequisites for those classes, and is expected to take about a year to complete.
“Surveying is related to geospatial technology and is basically land surveying guys you see on the side of the road with total stations making those land surveys,” Turk said. “It’s kind of a combination of several of those things and some others. Students won’t be professional surveyors. They’ll be able to go out and get jobs with surveying firms, and then work eventually toward becoming professional surveyors. It gives them ability to get those entry-level positions.”
The associate degree will prepare students to continue their education in the school’s Bachelor of Science degree in environmental spatial analysis or go directly into the workplace.
“We anticipate those skills could be used in a variety of places like the Georgia Forestry Service, Department of Natural Resources and working as technicians in engineering firms and in environmental protection,” Turk said of the associate degree.
He added that officials will visit high schools to let prospective students know about the opportunities with both programs.
“We want to go out and recruit in high schools in the area and bring them into our program,” he said. “Hopefully, it gives a way for students who may need to come in and get an education and then go out and work for a while to save some money to go on for the B.S. degree. This is an opportunity to do that.”
The U.S. Department of Labor expects the field to grow from about 850,000 employed in the industry currently to more than 1.2 million by 2019, according to a UNG news release.