Improving Spatial Skills through GPS Technology

  • Francek, Mark (PI)
  • Pape, Bruce B.M. (CoPI)
  • Althausen, John J. (CoPI)
  • Grossa, John J. (CoPI)
  • Li, Bin (CoPI)

Grant Details


Geology (42) To improve students' understanding of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, and their ability to collect, process, and analyze spatial data, we have adapted the Wikle, et al. approach of integrating GPS exercises across the curriculum. This approach, from 'Undergraduate Field Program for Implementing Global Positioning Technology'(NSF-ILI #9452441), uses field- and inquiry-based exercises to address real world problems. In introductory Physical Geography classes. lecture-based methods about the Earth's coordinate system are supplemented with a field-based 'road rally' approach using GPS to better understand distance, direction, and navigation using familiar campus landmarks. Student teams also give GPS demonstrations at local elementary schools as part of an Earth science fair. To encourage a greater interest in careers in science and technology for groups traditionally underrepresented, the students give GPS demonstrations at the local Native American school located at the nearby Chippewa Indian Reservation. At the intermediate and advanced level, students use GPS to map local spatial phenomena, rectify remote sensing imagery; and, modeling techniques adapted from Martha Potvin, et al. 'Using GIS as a Platform for Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Education' (NSF-ILI #9551429), the incorporation of GPS data into a GIS database. All projects are inquiry-based in which students identify a problem to be solved using GPS, devise a problem-solving strategy, conduct the analysis, and then present results through group computer presentations, by papers, or at the annual Undergraduate Research Fair. The equipment is used by 300+ students per semester at different levels in eleven different courses including Physical Geography, Cartography, Soil Science, Surface Hydrology, GIS, Remote Sensing, and GPS. Approximately 80 of these students are pre-service teachers, enrolled mainly in Physical Geography and Cartography classes. Each semester, classes targeted by the project are assessed using off-campus evaluators, focus groups, and written questionnaires. Feedback from these three assessment methods provides a quantitative and qualitative evaluation on 1) how well learning objectives are met; 2) students' comfort with GPS software and hardware; and 3) students' attitude toward technology in general.

Effective start/end date01/1/0012/31/01


  • National Science Foundation: $37,657.00


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