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MSU Receives Grant To Host Geospatial Skills Camp In Rural Areas

MSU Receives Grant To Host  Geospatial Skills Camp In Rural Areas MSU Receives Grant To Host  Geospatial Skills Camp In Rural Areas

High school students in five rural Montana communities will have the opportunity to attend a weeklong camp this summer focused on developing geospatial skills. The camp is being made possible thanks to an $85,000 grant awarded to Montana State University from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and will require collaboration with a partner organization in each of the five communities.

The offering is part of MSU’s ongoing effort to provide opportunities for middle school and high school students in STEM – or science, technology, engineering and mathematics – fields, according to Suzi Taylor, director of the Science Math Resource Center at MSU, which is hosting the camp along with the MSU Department of Earth Sciences.

“Montana is one of the most rural states in the U.S., with 75% of school districts considered rural – the highest proportion of any state,” Taylor noted in the grant application. “Consequently, not just many but most Montana young people grow up with few or no STEM opportunities beyond schoolbased classes, which also can be quite limited due to small school sizes and STEM teacher shortages.”

The camp, designed for students entering ninth and 10th grades, will be held June 10-14 in five rural communities, which have not yet been determined.

Trained educators will deliver the camp in-person in each community. In addition, some content will be delivered via distance-learning technology. Funding is available to support five campers at each of the five locations with lunch, snacks, transportation, STEM equipment and more.

The MSU team planning the camp includes an undergraduate student in education and an undergraduate student in earth sciences who will work together to create the camp’s curriculum, Taylor said. Community educators will customize the camp curriculum for their particular area; topics may include maps for analysis and navigation; collecting, analyzing and disseminating imagery from terrestrial, satellite and other sources; awareness of the skills and required credentials for piloting unmanned aerial vehicles; remote sensing; basic electronics and circuitry related to sensor development and use; and geospatial analysis tools.

Though some activities like virtual speakers will be scheduled throughout the week, Taylor said the camp is meant to be customizable to each community based on its needs.

“MSU will provide 40 hours’ worth of camp material, but each community will have the flexibility to implement it in their own way and on their own schedule,” Taylor said. She added examples of things communities might address are approaches to dealing with wildfire smoke or new housing developments.

One goal of the camp is to help kids learn about potential careers and fields of study related to geospatial science and engineering, particularly those connected to the Air Force and other organizations that offer employment in rural areas, Taylor said.

“Our plan is to have virtual guest speakers from MSU, from the Air Force, from NASA, from the Forest Service,” she said. “The campers will get to meet all kinds of people who use geospatial skills in their daily work. We hope it lights a spark and helps kids realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I could do that, too.’” Campers also will be encouraged to relate camp skills and experiences to a number of things, including their own interests, such as robotics, human performance or aviation; their community’s needs, such as natural resources management, precision agriculture or meteorological forecasting; as well as national topics of interest, such as security, energy or climate change.

In addition, campers will be invited to visit MSU for a day in August to attend a new event, GIS Day, which the Science Math Resource Center will host with support from MSU’s Geospatial Core Facility, which serves as a hub for all things geospatial on campus and beyond.

Camp materials will also be posted online so people from around the state can use the camp curriculum and customize it to their own communities.

Partner organizations in rural Montana communities that would like to host the June camp may apply now. Applications are due Dec. 22. Taylor said any community educator organization is welcome to apply, such as libraries, schools, out-of-school programs, 4-H clubs or scout troops.

“Really, it can be anyone who has a mission to work with kids,” she said.

Taylor said the Science Math Resource Center hopes the camp will help illuminate job possibilities.

“They may have heard you can be an engineer, but they have no idea all the different kinds of engineering that you can do. Or maybe they have a vague idea of what it’s like to be a scientist, but unless you’ve met someone who’s doing all these cool scientific applications, it’s hard to picture yourself being that person someday,” Taylor said. “Our goal with this camp is to shine a light on some of those possibilities.”

An informational webinar will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, for those who have questions about the program or application. For additional information, contact Taylor at 406-9942336 or or visit geo-skills.html.

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