S&T students get interactive with GIS software

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On August 21, 2008

Missouri University of Science and Technology
has received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to make
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software available to students in

As part of the grant, Missouri S&T faculty
members are designing a comprehensive learning system to introduce civil
engineering students to the

GIS software allows users to study land
features by looking at maps and databases. Undergraduates at Missouri S&T
can zoom in on landscapes, collect data, watch video, design strategies and
manipulate features. The learning system walks students through the steps to

“It’s like Google Earth only you can customize
and analyze spatial data,” says Dr. Ronaldo Luna, associate professor of civil,
architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri

The students can look at geographic
information from the past, study it in real time, or use the software to plan
for the future.

The learning system is already being used in a
geotechnical engineering laboratory. The system will also be used to teach
surveying, environmental engineering, transportation engineering and water

Luna says the GIS software is huge when it
comes to delivering the type of problem-based learning that Missouri S&T
students expect. For instance, one of the “problems” future S&T students
will try to solve with the software involves stretches of highway in Missouri
with poor safety

The problem is based on actual accident data
collected by transportation officials. Statewide data will be made available to
students, and dangerous locations will be evaluated. Students will recommend
improved safety mitigation measures or

With the GIS software, students are able to
look at topography, road alignments, sign placements and other information.
After proposing their solutions to the problem in class, the students compare
their answers to what is actually done in the real

“Students like real data and real world
problems,” Luna says. “They see that this is something they’ll be doing after
they graduate.”        

Luna uses subdivision planning as another
example of how the GIS software can show students how engineering is done in
the real

“With the software, we can show them how to
analyze the risks of flash flooding,” Luna says. “They can look at the
information and ask themselves questions like…How big should the storm sewers

As part of a push to pay more attention to the
nation’s infrastructure, more than 400 similar grants have been given to
universities. Seventeen universities, including Missouri S&T, were recently
invited to send representatives to Washington D.C. to discuss their progress
with NSF program managers. Luna represented Missouri S&T in Washington on
Aug. 13.

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On August 21, 2008. Posted in News