Talking to Students About Commercial Applications of GPS

08 March 2013 by Coleman McCormick

GPS talk

Earlier this week I went over to speak at University of South Florida, to a graduate course on the GPS system. The course’s objective is to teach the systemic details of GPS – its structure, communications architecture, and practical application.

I was invited over by Sean Barbeau (the course instructor) to give insight into how GPS is applied and used in commercial settings, particularly how we use it in our work to build and augment geospatial data all over the world, and how it’s integral to modern geospatial tools like Fulcrum. I covered the basics of our project work, product development efforts, and design process in how we think about geospatial technology. I think it opened some eyes to approaches and technology that are somewhat non-traditional, certainly in the general academic community.

Flipping through a quick demonstration of some modern geo tools – like Fulcrum, TileMill, and QGIS – the students in the course had great questions about process, benefits and drawbacks to GPS on smart devices, and how field data collection can be done on an industrial level. OpenStreetMap figured into the discussion, since Sean has been integrating the collection of GPS traces and data capture into his curriculum as a practical usage of the GPS system and devices. He’s even turned them onto Pushpin as a tool for adding data to OSM in the local area. Several students are now working on their semester project using Fulcrum as a field capture tool - the assignment is to go collect something interesting using GPS, then import some of the useful data into OpenStreetMap. Feels great to introduce students to new alternative technologies.

I always enjoy the opportunity to speak with up-and-coming GIS professionals, as I think the “outside opinion” from someone in industry is refreshing to young people in strictly academic settings. While the theory and research angles on the geographic sciences are critical to the learning process, perspectives from practical application are essential to having the write knowledge set when moving into the commercial space.

Coleman McCormick

About the author

Coleman is a geographer and VP at Spatial Networks, working with users to bring Fulcrum’s field data capability into their organizations.