The landscape for geospatial information technology (GIT) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology continues to evolve on a daily basis with new applications for GIT and UAS as well as changing regulations that govern the industry. This rapidly advancing technology requires a collaborative model between education, government, and industry stakeholders to cultivate the necessary advances in knowledge and technician education. The goal of this project at Northland Community and Technical College in Minnesota is to advance technician education by forming new educational pathways and partnerships, leading to a highly skilled GIT and UAS workforce. The program development will parallel significant changes resulting from industry integration of GIT and UAS technology; develop a technician workforce prepared to utilize UAS technology in a safe, efficient and responsible manner for numerous industries; incorporate input from faculty and industry and government stakeholders in shaping the evolution of technician education enhanced by GIT and UAS technology; and expand educational resources and best practices for GIT and UAS technology. This project builds on a small ATE project (1501629) that was designed to bridge the gap between new and emerging aviation technology and technician education in the area of UAS technology. A comprehensive evaluation will determine the impact of the project as well as make recommendations for modifications so that it can have maximum impact.
Northland has the only accredited UAS maintenance program in the country and has helped define nationally recognized credentials in partnership with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and SpaceTEC. It launched the first two-year AAS degree program in the country in Geospatial Intelligence Analysis to respond to the growing need for technicians educated in this high demand career field and has recently created a small UAS Field Service Technician Program to develop the knowledge base in technical proficiencies required as small UAS are integrated into the national airspace system (NAS). Building on these activities and those of its partners, the project will create innovative, industry driven curriculum to integrate GIT and UAS technology into technician education; develop collaborative partnerships with universities, public sector, and industry stakeholders to align educational pathways for dynamically changing careers resulting from GIT and UAS technology; and advance faculty knowledge and resources for GIT and UAS technology. The key objectives for this project are to: (a) leverage existing NSF ATE resources to validate workforce assessments and enhance GIT and UAS curriculum modeling for broad disciplines such as agriculture, public safety and infrastructure inspection.; (b) establish collaborative educational pathways by integrating new and existing curriculum across Minnesota State through dual credit enrollment and 2+2 articulation; and (c) expand GIT and UAS professional development opportunities and educational resources throughout higher education including development of curriculum and materials, access to laboratory resources, and workshops for college faculty, high school teachers, and students.
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