EIGS Launches Geospatial Community Projects with 13 Mississippi Schools

November 10, 2009 -- Oxford, MS – The Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS), housed at The University of Mississippi, is pleased to announce the launch of MARS 2009 high school GIS projects. MARS (Mississippi Area Remapping Strategy) is a geospatial high school adoption program that was established in 2007 to help address the ongoing demand for an educated, well-trained workforce and to create a pipeline of the next generation of employees for Mississippi’s geospatial industry. The 2009 program consists of 13 schools participating from across the state of Mississippi. This year, MARS will pilot the program for middle school students with upper level students from Lyon Elementary in Coahoma County serving as the pilot group.

“Geospatial technology has been identified as one of the top three fastest growing career fields by the Department of Labor,” stated Greg Easson, EIGS Executive Director. “We are definitely experiencing rapid growth in Mississippi and are spearheading efforts like the MARS program to help ensure that there is a trained workforce ready for the jobs that are waiting.”

The official kick-off was held November 5, 2009, at Hinds Community College in Jackson, MS. Close to 125 students, teachers, mentors, and representatives from state departments and agencies were in attendance.

Over the next 6 months, the selected schools will work with academic and community mentors to design and conduct a community-based geospatial information science and technology (GIS&T) project. The projects will show how geospatial technology can be used to address a variety of community needs including the mapping of community resources such as walking trails, the inventory of infrastructure and facilities such as fire hydrants and bridges, the tracking of bus routes, and the mapping of physical features such as levees.

The participating schools receive support from their mentor institution, computer hardware and software, technical support and training, GPS units, and resource books to support the projects.

MARS is funded primarily through the Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS) at the University of Mississippi with additional funding from a Delta Regional Authority grant and from the AmericaView Program. MARS high schools are partnered with mentors from universities, community colleges, geospatial businesses, and community organizations. Northwest Mississippi Community College serves as the statewide coordinator for the MARS program.

“This year, MARS is pleased to include participants from counties in the North Delta Planning and Development District in Northwest Mississippi,” said Easson. “These counties are part of a University of Mississippi grant project funded by the Delta Regional Authority. The outreach portion of the project has similar goals as the MARS program so participants are being included in the statewide effort.”

MARS 2009 includes schools from Batesville, Biloxi, Como, Decatur, Jackson, Lake Cormorant, Laurel, Louisville, Lyon, Marks, Saltillo, Tunica, Webb, and Woodville. Volunteering their time and expertise to guide the school GIS projects are mentors from Alcorn State University, DeSoto County GIS Department, East Central Community College, Hinds Community College, Jones County Junior College, Mendrop-Wages Surveying, Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies, Mississippi State University, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Plum Creek Timber Company, The University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

“We are so excited to have additional schools and partners participating in MARS this year,” stated Joyce Brasell of Northwest Mississippi Community College, the statewide coordinator for the pilot project. “From highway departments to sheriff departments to public works departments, the enthusiasm and support for MARS on the part of our community partners is one of the real keys to the success of this program.”

About the Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions:
Since 1998, the State of Mississippi has nurtured the growth of a cluster of high-tech companies in the geospatial technology industry. The Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS) at the University of Mississippi is funded through the Mississippi Development Authority to coordinate the activities of this cluster. EIGS works with private companies as well as university research programs, state agencies, and other related organizations to support geospatial business development and research with the primary mission of growing the research-based, world-class geospatial technology industry in Mississippi. For more information, visit www.eigs.olemiss.edu.

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