Archive for February, 2011

Put Your Geospatial Know-How to the Test

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Are you a Geotech student who is up for a challenge? Want to help boost your resume? And how would you like an all-expenses paid trip to a leading GIS conference this summer?

Intrigued? Well, the first annual National Geospatial Technology Skills Competition could be for you.

The new competition was launched just last month. It’s open exclusively to students over 18 years who are enrolled at two-year community and technical colleges where courses, or degree programs are offered in geospatial technology. There’s no fee to enter and it’s a chance to show off your geospatial skills a to a national audience.

Here’s how it works: The competition is made up of three parts. The first round is a multiple-choice exam to test overall geospatial knowledge. It’s available on the GeoTech website until April 15, 2011.

Participants who score 70 percent or better on the exam advance to the second round. And then the real fun begins.

In this portion of the competition, you really get to show off by creating a software-based project and submitting a short video about the project to YouTube.

Participants choose from one of the following project topics: strategies for environmental sustainability; campus mapping; community demographics; energy; animal habitat; natural disasters; and urban forests.

Entries are submitted by May 1st and a panel of judges selected from the geospatial industry will judge the entries. Six semi-finalists will be selected to move on to the final round – which will be held at the ESRI Education User’s Conference in San Diego, in July. So, if you make it to the Third Round, you not only compete, you get to attend the conference, which is also attended by 14,000 GIS professionals – a great career opportunity.

The six finalists will present their work. First, second and third place winners for the overall national conference will be chosen by the audience.

Check out the GeoTech Center website to register or to learn more about the rules of the competition. Besides being a fun way to hone your skills, the competition could be a great addition to your resume and good preparation for GIS professional certification exams.

Go for it!

Tools of the Trade: What’s New In Agriculture

Friday, February 11th, 2011


It’s been more than 20 years since affordable geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) first came into widespread use, enabling the farm industry to plant and maintain crops with “precision.” Since then, numerous other innovations – automatic steering, seed and spray applications, and web-based technology, to name just a few – have made Precision Agriculture a standard way of doing business, with its efficient technologies and environmentally sound practices.

This week, World Ag Expo, “the world’s largest annual agriculture exposition celebrating 44 years of innovative agriculture” examines New Tools for Agri-Business. We looked at a few of the “Top 10 New Products of 2011” and how they further add to the “precision” of Precision Agriculture.

We’ll start with a decidedly low-tech innovation known as the AG Flag. As developer Mike Hansen explains on the World Ag Expo website, this “farmer-friendly” water-activated device helps farmers save money, water and effort by eliminating guesswork. “It’s an incredibly simple way to signal when your flood irrigation water reaches the pre-determined location in your field or crop and that it’s time to change or shut off the water.” Mounted at the end of a 5-foot long pole, the AG Flag springs up when irrigation water dissolves a strip of paper that secures the flag; once released and upright, the bright orange flag can be seen up to a mile away.

Meanwhile, World Ag Expo also tells us that a new software system called Connected Farm is helping increase farm management efficiency by combining precision farming information collected in the field with data management software and cell phone technology. According to a company spokesperson, the software provides users with an easy, secure wireless transfer of production records from the field to the office, and back to the field, enabling employees to work off the same set of data and simultaneously receive updates — no matter how far away from one another they may be.

And a new rugged tablet computer from Trimble Yuma is designed to work where farmers and ranchers work – in scorching summer heat and sub-zero winter cold, not to mention in driving rain and blinding snow and dusty, muddy conditions. So, as the World Ag Expo website explains, instead of using crop management or livestock monitoring software only in the office, this new portable device – weighing less than three pounds – lets farmers bring it into the field or barn, operating on two rechargeable batteries.

If you’d like to learn more about the educational opportunities available in the field of Precision Agriculture, check out the websites of Kirkwood Community College, or Agrowknowledge, the National Resource Center for Agriscience and Technical Education, where you’ll find plenty of information and resources, including educational and career opportunities available in the Agricultural Industry.

Help Wanted: Women Engineers

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Last year, an article in the business magazine Forbes, highlighted “The Best-Paying Jobs That Women Aren’t In”. The magazine used a 2008 Department of Labor list of “nontraditional” jobs for women, coupled with 2008 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on earnings by occupation to calculate 20 occupations that women might want to reconsider.

Number Two on the list — just behind chief executive positions — were engineering jobs. According to Forbes’ calculations, females make up only about 12 percent of all engineers and engineering technicians, yet it’s one of the best-paying and fastest-growing fields today.

Why so few women engineers? It may be that engineering has often been perceived as an “introverted” field with its heavy focus on math and science and solitary work environment. But, as Forbes reports, colleges and industry have more recently begun promoting engineering as a job that can be both creative and collaborative, career considerations that are more likely to appeal to females.

Both Elaine Craft and Tressa Gardner of the SC ATE Center at Florence Darlington Technical College agree that the field of engineering needs more women. “We don’t have nearly as many women [enrolled in engineering classes] as we’d like,” Tressa told ATETV. And, as Elaine noted, “We need to make [engineering] careers more attractive to women. Females can be successful in ways they never realized.”

We did a little digging and came up with two websites that provide a lot of resources and background about engineering careers, including one that’s specially geared to women in science and technology fields. As both sites describe in plenty of detail, engineering offers women a wide variety of job opportunities — and it’s anything but dull!

The first site, TryEngineering, even has as its tagline, “Discover the creative engineer in you.” Here, you’ll learn, for example, how engineers develop sustainable energy solutions and design the electronic devices that enhance the quality of our everyday lives. You’ll find find job descriptions, educational opportunities, lesson plans and exercises that help illustrate and illuminate specific jobs and the day-to-day experiences of engineers. For example, the section “Explore Engineering,” introduces web users to both practicing engineers and engineering students who describe, in their own words, what it’s like to be in the field of engineering. The site breaks out career paths by majors (for both Engineering and Engineering Technology) covering a total of 25 major specialities including chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

Try Engineering provides preparation tips and advice on what classes to take, describes the work life of an engineer, and, through its Game section, lets you build a bridge or a lifeboat, learn about simple and compound machines, or choose the pipeline strategy best suited for various sections of the Alaska terrain.

The second site we found, Under the Microscope is geared to women who are in or are considering jobs in science and technology, including engineering. A profile section (Under the Lens), introduces readers to real women, such as Megan Chann, who describes in detail her summer internship as an engineer at the Alcoa-Howment manufacturing plant, where parts are made for jet engines. Under the Microscope also offers a long list of resources (Top Summer STEM Internships for 2011; Top websites to explore; Careers in Science; Scholarship Opportunities; even Smart Phone apps!) One of the lists that looked particularly valuable was the Top 10 Mentoring Resources for Women in Science and Engineering.

Who knows, maybe the next time around, engineering will be in Forbes business magazines’ lists of the Top 10 Best-Paying Jobs that Women ARE In!