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08 November 2007

HACC to participate in Pennsylvania's GIS Day activities

GeoSpatial Technology is one of the hottest, fastest growing careers of the future, and HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College, has been at the forefront of educating the local workforce about the field since 2005.

HACC will be among exhibitors at Pennsylvania Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in the East and Main Capitol Rotundas in Harrisburg aims to educate the public about this exciting technical field.

"While GIS has been around for 30 years, software was not user friendly. It has gone more mainstream now, especially with the introduction of Google Earth in 2005," said Nicole Ernst, HACC GeoSpatial Technology coordinator/instructor. "In the last several years, this technology has skyrocketed, and now the interfaces make it easier. This is definitely a huge growth field."

GeoSpatial Technology includes GIS, which is an organized system of hardware, software, peripherals, data and personnel; remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), and computer aided drawing (CAD).

HACC's GeoSpatial Technology program started at the Harrisburg Campus in 2005 and includes an associate's degree program or a certificate program for those who already have a two- or four-year degree. Non-credit opportunities will expand to the Lebanon and Lancaster HACC campuses in January.

"Most of our students are taking these courses to advance in their jobs or change careers. Because they tend to be older and work during the day, classes are offered at night," said Ernst. "Students include a hydrologist, a librarian and those working in conservation, for architectural and engineering firms, and other industries. Applications for this technology are so wide-spread, and our students represent a variety of fields."

HACC's GIS resource center takes on small-scale consulting projects, and Ernst supervises students who get real-world experience working on the projects.

HACC itself uses the technology to profile its student population in order to target the college's marketing. Non-profit organizations use the geo coding of donors' addresses to help identify gaps and where they should concentrate fundraising efforts. Students also have mapped local wineries including Nissley, Moon Dancer and Hunters Valley.

GIS can answer questions such as location, conditions such as rain, trends including what has changed over time, patterns and how they are related, and modeling or "what if" scenarios.

The theme for Pennsylvania GIS Day 2007 is "Fifty States for the Nation, 67 Counties for Pennsylvania." Data sharing among and across all levels of government offers a unique opportunity to positively affect homeland security efforts, economic growth, to protect the environment and better prepare Pennsylvania for unexpected natural disasters such as floods.

For more information about HACC's GIS program, contact Ernst at 221-1345 or via email at contact address below. For more information about Pennsylvania GIS Day, call the Pennsylvania Geospatial Technologies Office at 783-0121.

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