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Brookhaven Students Use Satellite Data to Map Information as They Map Their Careers

Seth Bullis, a GIS student at Brookhaven College, built his own drone.

Contact: Debra Dennis
214-378-1851; ddennis@dcccd.edu 

For immediate release — Feb. 1, 2017

(DALLAS) — As they connect the world, students who enroll in geographic information systems courses at Brookhaven College also are mapping their future careers.
 
GIS technology allows students to use satellite-captured data to show a variety of information about a specific location, such as environmental conditions, urban growth patterns or flood-prone homes.  It takes measurements and shows a variety of map features such as boundaries and elevations. The technology also allows students to merge features from existing maps to become digital features.
 
“All of these maps show how we perceive and catalog our world,” said J. Scott Sires, Brookhaven’s GIS program coordinator. “Data captured by satellites can be uploaded into GIS and show all kinds of information about a city, such as income, voting patterns or transportation networks.”
 
Sires, who has been teaching this technology for 13 years, has watched students prepare for careers in asset management, health care, transportation, energy, and urban and regional planning. He also has witnessed their entry into real estate appraisal, retail, banking, natural resources management and emergency management, using GIS technology.
 
“We’re essentially storytellers,” said Sires, who is credited with designing and administering Brookhaven’s program.  Students can discover the trends and relationships of the world through information systems, he said.
 
“We look for patterns and relationships,” Sires said. “For example, we try to determine if there is a pattern between crime and an absence of grocery stores. There are burglaries and thefts and violence, and we can measure the effect of the phenomenon on a particular area.”

“This (field) is fun. It takes you outside. It has rewards, and you make an impact. It pays well, and it’s growing,” said Sires. “It helps to have an interest in science, engineering, spatial concepts and math, but that’s not required.”
 

Hands-on Training Puts Students in Charge of Their Careers

 
GIS students at Brookhaven visit sites, record measurements, predict weather phenomena, fly drones and track social patterns — all hands-on training, in addition to class studies.
 
Jake Gardner is confident he will have a future with GIS credentials. The 20-year-old Brookhaven student is pursuing both a certificate and an associate degree in GIS. He currently is working as an electrical engineer for a computer-board manufacturing company.
 
Gardner wants to pair the two fields and has assured his parents that GIS and electrical engineering are a good match that could lead to a profitable career.
 
“The way any company works, they have to spatially aware,” Gardner said. “If you are ordering anything on Amazon or from any other company, this (process) involves GIS. They have to know where their customers are and the best way to serve them. These incredibly detailed systems like Google Maps are the way any company succeeds.
 
“GIS is a fast-growing field where you can use a broad set of skills to get things done. One of the nice things about GIS is that it doesn’t attract only young people.  A lot of people are into this (field) because of how GIS is related to everything,” Gardner added.
 
Another student, Jesus Velasquez, 19, is fielding offers for internships to further his studies in GIS at Brookhaven, where he is pursuing his associate degree.
 
“I’m trying to get deeper into the program,” said Velasquez, who graduates in May and expects to transfer at Texas A&M University to complete his studies. “I want to expand my knowledge. The more you know, the more you’ll get paid. GIS can be applied to many fields.”
 
Brookhaven College, through the Dallas County Community College District, has transfer agreements with Texas A&M and the University of North Texas for GIS.
 
While he was a dual credit student in Brookhaven’s GIS program, Seth Bullis built his own drone.
 
“I was able to fly it over my neighborhood and take pictures to survey that area,” said Bullis, 19, who works part time for Sherwin Williams. “I like this field. I like maps and cartography, and I like messing with data and using it to answer a question in a way it hasn’t already been answered.”
 
Bullis’ interest in GIS started when he was a computer design student at R.L. Turner High School. He, too, wants to complete his associate degree in the field at Brookhaven and transfer to Texas A&M.
 

Practical Applications Help Students Learn

 
Last year, several students participated in a project that allowed them to conduct an aerial analysis of Mountain View College. They also created 2-D and 3-D maps of the campus that will help Mountain View with its conservation and sustainability efforts.
 
“We had to go to our fly zone and set up different survey areas to complete the entire campus,” Bullis said. “Mountain View has a lot more nature areas, rather than buildings. It’s like a nature preserve kind of college. It’s all sustainable.”
 
The Mountain View project helped students on their path to become technical experts by collecting and processing data, Sires said.
 
The job outlook for GIS professionals is positive, and the demand for this technology is growing, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  The median pay for entry-level positions is about $42,010 — or $20.20 hourly — according to labor officials.  Employment for cartographers and mapping technicians is expected to grow 19 percent through 2018.
 
“It’s a competitive field,” Sires said.
 
Brookhaven offers both certificate and degree options. Full-time students can complete the Geographic Information Systems Specialist Certificate in five semesters. The Geographic Information Systems Technician Certification takes about three semesters.
 
For more information, contact Sires at 972-860-4362 or at ssires@dcccd.edu. For details about the program, visit dcccd.edu/GIS.
 
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