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Teachers learn mapping technology with help from grant March 14, 2009

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in English, Haber (News).
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Two area college instructors are thrilled with the potential of relatively new technology that they say applies to nearly every field.

Jackie Stenehjem, an instructor at Williston State University, and Angie Milakovic, from Bismarck State College, studied integrated geospatial education and technology training (iGETT) through a grant from the National Science Foundation and NASA. They were among 40 community college instructors from across the country who were recipients of the iGETT grant.

The two trained during the summers of 2007 and 2008 in remote sensing, or use of satellite imagery manipulation, and are now teaching their students how to use the technology in their classes. Milakovic said there are hundreds of NASA images available online that used to cost hundreds of dollars and now are available for free.

Both women had previously taught students how to use related global positioning systems and geographic information systems technology in their classes. GPS technology is used to collect data; GIS technology is used to display it.

“I’m pumped,” said Stenehjem, who said using the remote sensing software can be challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun.

She started taking classes in the field because one of her advisers in her entomology graduate program at North Dakota State University suggested it would be useful to map mosquito breeding areas. She kept taking courses and Williston State asked her to teach a GIS class there.

The technology has an almost unlimited number of uses. It can be used to map traffic patterns, to determine how much agricultural land is in use, to map the number of parking lots. Students interested in becoming real estate agents, engineers, archaeologists, geologists, business owners and in other areas are taking the classes.

In a class she taught last semester, Stenehjem said she covered how farmers can use the technology to make better decisions about planting crops and how to make more of a profit.

Students in Stenehjem’s class this semester are doing a mapping activity, mapping rocks, crops, and boundary lines as they would if they were out in a field. In previous years, Stenehjem’s students have helped the city of Williston by mapping a cemetery. Eventually the GPS location of a particular grave and a photograph of the grave could be online, which would be a tremendous help to genealogists or family members seeking out the exact location of a grave, said Stenehjem. Last semester another class mapped all of the alumni of Williston State University, using street addresses on file for graduates of the university. Students are mapping what would happen if Fort Peck Dam broke and flooded the area.

“You can’t do that with a paper map,” said Stenehjem, who calls the potential it offers for interactive mapping “wonderful.”

GIS classes will be offered at both Bismarck State College and Williston State University. Milakovic said her GIS class is offered online, while Stenehjem said she hopes Williston State will offer the course online at some point.

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