Engaging Youth at SPAR 2011

A new topic introduced at SPAR 2011 was the Engaging Youth session which highlighted the opportunities and avenues for introducing exciting 3D technologies to the next generation of young professionals. The Navajo Technology College, Oregon State University, and the University of Texas at Dallas had booths set up demonstrating their latest efforts in integrating 3D technology, such as laser scanning both from an educational and research perspective.

The Engaging Youth session consisted of a panel including Chris Tucker of Point Geomatics, Craig Glennie of the University of Houston, Scott Halliday of the Navajo Technical College, and Michael Olsen of Oregon State University. Georgia Fotopoulos of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) moderated the panel discussion. Two graduate students from UTD also gave presentations on 3D photogrealistic modeling of outcrops for geoscience applications and how they are being integrated into virtual reality platforms for training and educational purposes.

Craig Glennie provided valuable insight into the processes that have been established through NCALM at the University of Houston to allow high-caliber research students to obtain airborne LiDAR data for their projects. He discussed the benefit of the program to graduate students in geosciences and the opportunities that it has created. He also discussed the differences in applications from industry (primarily focused on corridors) and geosciences (mostly focused on geomorphology).

Chris Tucker followed Craig and discussed his roles in supporting academia from industry. Chris has donated older scanners to universities. He also discussed his ideas to recruit the best and brightest students into the workforce and is a key supporter of donating his time for guest lectures at K-12 level schools where laser scanning offers a fun way to learn about geometry and math. He commented that 50% of his hires are from technical schools and 50% are from engineering schools.

Mike Olsen from Oregon State then discussed new developments at OSU to expand both their undergraduate and graduate courses within the civil and construction engineering school. He discussed the tremendous support of Leica Geosystems and David Evans and Associates in providing hardware and software to improve the students learning in geomatics courses. Finally, he discussed opportunities and growth in graduate research projects involving geomatics for engineering applications.

Carlos Aiken from UTD provided information on the UNAVCO initiative for loaning laser scanners to researchers through an NSF funded program.

Scott Halliday then discussed the outstanding innovations and growth of the Navajo Technical College. Their enrollments have tripled in size over the last 3 years. Since joining NTC, Scott has worked hard to improve the CAD Program to work in 3D. He has also worked with NASA to provide funding and opportunities for students using 3D laser scanning at the Marshall Space Flight Center. This provides NASA with a strong group of students from under-represented backgrounds with significant experience in laser scanning.

The participants in the session were excited about the developments in academic programs to integrate this new technology and prepare the next generations of geospatial professionals. Additional highlights from the session include the importance of incorporating social media in recruiting young minds into the geospatial community, which has proven to be very successful for both industry and universities (i.e., through student internships). The SPAR group is excited to provide more opportunities for students at future events.