LOUISVILLE, KY -- Thanks to a $3 million, three-year National Science Foundation grant, Jefferson Community & Technical College is now home to the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence, or shorter, the National GeoTech Center.
A formal announcement was held at the college Tuesday, June 25.
The grant was awarded June 5; the center officially launched June 15. It is one of only two NSF National Centers of Excellence for advanced technological education in Kentucky. The other is the National Center in Automotive Manufacturing, based at the Kentucky Community & Technical College System in Versailles.
“We are excited to embrace such an important technology and to be at the center of educational leadership in this rapidly growing field,” said Dr. Tony Newberry, president and CEO. “The college, under the leadership Dean Vincent A. DiNoto Jr., has amassed an impressive group of national partners and we look forward to seeing advances that come from their work. It will benefit educators and industries across country.” The program formally will be housed at the JCTC Southwest Campus off Stonestreet Road.
Sometimes referred to a “visual database” or “data on maps,” geospatial technology is a rapidly advancing science that allows data to be used in meaningful ways. Approximately 80 percent of all data have a “spatial” or location-based component. Blending data with advanced technologies such as GPS (global positioning system), remote sensing, GIS (geographic information systems), and mobile technologies, allows researchers and others to spot trends, maximize logistics, plot movement and much more.
“It allows people to make informed decisions by pulling data together in a way they can visualize and understand,” said DiNoto, who is leading the GeoTech Center. DiNoto, a professor of physics, astronomy and geospatial technology at Jefferson, also is Dean of College and Systemic Initiatives for the college.
One common example of GeoSpatial technology is surveying. But it is used heavily in marketing, logistics, education, by the military and police, and in other areas where data and locations combine to tell a meaningful or useful story.
The college has used the technology to analyze travel patterns of students to campus. The college now knows which programs a student will travel a long-distance to attend and which programs need to be closer to home. It also helped the college analyze enrollment and student success patterns across various neighborhoods in the city and adjust programs to meet needs.
The National GeoTech Center is a coalition of educators and experts from across the country who will establish a cutting-edge knowledge base known as a “Community of Practice,” create and maintain educational standards and pedagogy, educate GeoSpatial Technology instructors, and work closely with business and industry to both ensure workforce needs are met and to create career paths in the technology. It will build upon the work of the first national center, which was based in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The geospatial industry continues to expand at a phenomenal rate. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics show more than 850,000 current geospatial workers with an additional 350,000 needed by 2018; GIS alone is listed in the top 10 high growth, high wage industries. In the Louisville- area alone, a number of public and private entities rely on GeoSpatial technology, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service, the Army Human Resources Command Center of Excellence, UPS WorldPort and Amazon.
June 10-13, the center held a “GeoEd” conference for educators in Louisville, attracting more than 100 participants from education and industry from across the U.S. In order to meet workforce demand, among the GeoTech Center’s goals are to expand the number and quality of programs offered at two-year colleges. Jefferson, which offers a certificate program in GeoSpatial technology as part of its associate degree program in Computer Information Systems, is one of only about 120 two-year colleges to offer a credential in the technology.
The center also plans to reach out to special populations including veterans, women and underserved communities to develop career paths.
“Our mission is to get the latest information into the hands of educators and to mentor those educators,” DiNoto said. “Then they can prepare the next generation of GeoSpatial Technology experts.”
The GeoTech Center is led by: