Grant will help SLU and Taylor Geospatial Institute build infrastructure to train the region’s geospatial workforce
ST. LOUIS — A $1 million grant from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (MDHEWD) to Saint Louis University will create the Taylor Geospatial Institute Advanced Computing, Analytics, and big Data Education for Missouri (TGI Academy) within the Taylor Geospatial Institute.
The funds will enable SLU and Taylor Geospatial Institute (TGI) to build the infrastructure that will enable the training of the region’s geospatial and geodetic workforce at multiple levels, from undergraduate STEM and geospatial degree and credential programs to advanced professional development opportunities for the current geospatial workforce, focusing on the critical and under-resourced areas of geodesy and photogrammetry among others such as geospatial AI (GeoAI), drone technology, virtual reality/extended reality (VR/XR), and software engineering.
“This grant enables us to broaden our core mission of geospatial research and training the next generation of geospatial researchers,” said Vasit Sagan, Ph.D., acting TGI director and associate professor of geospatial science at Saint Louis University.
During the 2022 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly appropriated $20 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for two grant programs to be administered by the department: Private MoExcels and Agriculture Innovation & Workforce Development.
The grant from the Private MoExcels fund to SLU allows SLU and TGI to reach and serve new populations while enhancing support for underrepresented students.
The grant will provide seed funding to:
- Establish a high-performance computing training lab with high-end graphical processing unit (GPU) machines,
- Develop VR/XR applications to teach foundational geospatial science, and
- Develop micro-credentials in sensors, manned aircraft, and drone data collection, geodesy, and photogrammetry, as well as traditional geospatial science degrees.
Sagan said that as the geospatial sector grows in the St. Louis region, there is a greater need to provide workforce training opportunities for those in the field, in addition to the education in geospatial sciences that SLU and other TGI member institutions provide to their students.
The TGI consortium includes SLU, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Harris-Stowe State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Missouri University of Science & Technology, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Washington University in St. Louis. Collectively, these institutions encompass more than 5,000 faculty and 100,000 students.
“There is a real threat to U.S. national intelligence if we fall behind in core geospatial sciences,” Sagan said. “This grant is an example of TGI leveraging state resources, along with our private/public partnerships to develop the geospatial workforce.”
The TGI Academy award also supports a Geospatial Data Science Summer camp with cutting-edge training materials that will target the next generation of geospatial investigators – the Summer at SLU camp, slated for June 5–9, is open to students in grades 4–12.
“This is an investment in the future,” said Ness Sandoval, Ph.D., acting TGI associate director for diversity, education and training and a professor of sociology at SLU. “With the camp, we are highlighting the pathways to geospatial careers for the next generation.”
Enrollment for the camp opens March 1.
The Taylor Geospatial Institute builds on St. Louis’ significant geospatial assets and is funded by a legacy investment by Andrew C. Taylor, Executive Chairman of Enterprise Holdings, Inc. and Founding Chair of Greater St. Louis, Inc. with supporting investments from each of the eight member institutions.
TGI’s mission is to advance geospatial science through multi-institutional, interdisciplinary collaborations to create innovative, real-world solutions to societal grand challenges. It supports a collaborative research and training environment with a focus on:
- Core geospatial science & computation – leveraging an interdisciplinary network of knowledge, technology, and skills to make geospatial science more powerful and impactful.
- Food security – informing climate-smart farming practices while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and agricultural output.
- Geospatial health – measuring location and its influence on community health to improve healthcare systems and outcomes worldwide.
- National security – maintaining a leading edge over adversaries through innovation in cutting-edge technologies and a commitment to creating a highly-skilled geospatial workforce.