Students selected as finalists in prestigious competition

By: Joel Gilleland, Staff Reporter

Two Geographic Information Technology students have qualified to com­pete in the final round of the Esri International User Conference in San Diego, CA, said Amy Ballard, full-time instructor and applied technologies department chair.

Laurance Armour and Jennifer Lewis Fowler are two of only six finalists in the nation-wide competition that study geospatial skills and technology, said Ballard.

“These two students did it. They took the tests and got in there. I really give them a huge amount of credit for going that extra mile because they are doing this during their final semester here at CNM. It’s a really big deal,” said Ballard.

Armour recently gradu­ated with an associate degree in Geographic Information Technology, but said he plans to take more courses at CNM in order to get into UNM’s computer science program.

“I never thought I would like computers, but I have had so much fun in these classes that I want to keep going,” said Armour.

He said he is excited for the competition and plans to spend the next two months preparing his presentation.

The first two rounds of the three-round competition consisted of a 100-question exam and a video presentation of the finalists’ project, said Ballard. Those rounds were completed earlier this year.

“I used satellite images to compare forest health between protected forests and unpro­tected forests,” said Armour.

The scores from both rounds were added together and the six students with the highest scores were chosen to present their professional post­ers at the Esri International User Conference.

Armour said his poster was part of a class final project that took him more than half of a semester to complete.

“It took a good eight weeks of staying pretty focused and then two weeks of refining it and getting it right. It was a lot of work,” said Armour.

The finalists will pres­ent their projects on July 22 to an audience of more than 15,000 Geographic Information Systems professionals, said Ballard.

Armour, Fowler and the other four finalists will have a $2,000 travel stipend for the conference, and the opportunity to meet with professionals in the field, said Ballard.

“It’s really great. You can bring resumes. You can set up interviews while you’re there. It’s absolutely a good opportu­nity to interact with industry,” said Ballard.

Esri, short for Environmental Systems Research Institute, is a pri­vate company which holds about 80 percent of the market in Geographic Information Systems, said Ballard.

The Geotech competition had been a part of the SkillsUSA national applied technologies competitions until two years ago, when it was dropped due to low interest.

“These are pretty small programs so that was a bit of impetus for us,” said Ballard.

Ballard said she and other members of the GeoTech Center grant program created the com­petition for students at two-year institutions across the country. This will be the second consecu­tive year of the competition.

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