Dr. Xutong Niu (left), and Dr. Steve Ramroop (right) are pioneering a geospatial informatics program Troy University

Time waits for no one, and neither does technology. Just after students graduate college, the digital realm has often advanced far enough to make many newly-acquired skills practically obsolete.

Troy University has designed a new geospatial informatics department with the hope of not only getting students ahead of others competing for similar jobs post-graduation, but also ahead of the technology that often makes graduates’ knowledge antiquated.

Geospatial informatics – or Geomatics -- is the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data relating to the Earth’s surface. It combines mapping, data analysis and other related disciplines and allows the user to package the material for many different kinds of applications.

Department Chair Dr. Xutong Niu and Program Director Dr. Steve Ramroop have pioneered the program with the support of Troy University, and created a series of accredited classes recognized by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying as one of the top three programs in the country.

The department’s high-ranking recognition has led to roughly $20,000 in education awards used to keep the technology utilized in classes matched with, or exceeding, the technology currently used in the field.

Due to the increasing complexity of problems that face communities, states and countries, a holistic approach to solving issues regarding land, oceans, and manmade features is necessary, said Ramroop.

“In order to create solutions to problems, to discover new things, or simply make improvements to the world around us, geomatics is essential,” Ramroop said.

There is currently a need for professionals with knowledge of geomatics for fields such as engineering, law enforcement, and energy production. Geographic information systems, or GIS, professionals in such fields can use a combination of hardware and software to explain, fix, unearth, and observe happenings in the world.

“It sounds very broad, because it is. Geomatics can be applied to most things, and as the world begins to realize how valuable the information (gathered using GIS) is, there will be a desperate need for licensed surveyors.” Niu said. “We give students the tools and knowledge to gather data and information that lies within the land, add a location to it, and draw out the significance of the data. Then that information can be integrated into the decision making process.”

The courses the department offers range from abstract concepts such as geomatic theory, to concrete methods of surveying land and structures such as the use of drones and computer programs that can configure, organize, and manipulate data to simulate cause and effect scenarios.

Some examples of geomatics in use are map and navigation services, structural security, archeology, construction, and more, said Ramroop

The program was created in May as a cluster of three minors: geographic information systems (GIS), unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and Geography. Niu and Ramroop hope to add a GIS major to the program as soon as the fall semester of 2019.

Niu and Ramroop hope to recruit more students into the surveying and geomatics science program, and continue to provide opportunities for students to use some of the top technology in the field.

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