standard Chapter 3 – The College of Geographic Sciences Era … continued

[… return to first part of Chapter 3]

Changes to traditional programs

Both GIS and RS technologies have common application in the fields of Planning and Cartography. The evolution of the Department of Computer Programming to embrace both technologies provided on-site software resources available to all programs at COGS. This impacted the planning program where GIS has become a standard tool and Cartography, where students work in a fully digital world. The availability of instructors with specialist software development skills was a benefit to both programs. The move of Information Technology (IT) to Middleton in 1997 was a significant loss, because it reduced access to these specialized technical skills.

During the COGS era, the Survey department remained very stable, offering the two-year, Land Survey diploma and the one-year Survey Assistant certificate. Aside from the name change to Geomatics Engineering, a Canadian wide trend, the only addition to the department was the Marine Geomatics program, which happened in 1999.

International Training

COGS recognized the opportunity to offer its technical training overseas, as well as to bring foreign students to Lawrencetown. Its model for this type of outreach was ITC at Enscede in the Netherlands. Now, ITC is known as the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation of the University of Twente. In the late 1980’s, through Dalhousie University, COGS was bringing Indonesian students to Lawrencetown as part of the CIDA funded Environmental Management Development Indonesia (EMDI) project to assist the Indonesian government. The main proponent was Dr. Arthur Hansen, with Dr. Shirley Conover as Project Manager. In 1988, Dr. Bob Maher subsequently left COGS, to take a position as GIS consultant with EMDI in Jakarta.

Interestingly, but unrelated, in 1998 Bob was approached by John Rostron, Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) to help develop a new M.Sc program in IT for Natural Resources Management at BIOTROP, at the IPB, Bogor. This resulted in a transfer of the COGS training model in GIS and RS to Indonesia. David Colville partnered with Bob on the design of the new graduate program. We hired two graduating COGS graduates, Steven Rawlinson and Valerie Thomas, to spend a year in Bogor teaching the program. The following year, three COGS graduates provided similar training. By Year 3, the Indonesians were self-sufficient, and there was no longer the need for the expertise from Lawrencetown.

Computer Graphics program

Barry Mooney had a software development and support company called Wycove Systems, in Halifax. Our paths crossed because of our relationship with the scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography (BIO). When we set up the Computer Graphics program, we hired Barry and Paul Quinn as instructors. Paul was a recent graduate of the SCP program. The Computer Graphics program ran for five years between 1984-89. While the intake numbers were small, we found that there was a specialist demand. Eventually Barry and Paul decided to start a new business in Bridgetown, Barry Mooney and Associates, with a somewhat similar focus as Wycove Systems. The company expanded and established a Dartmouth office. Later, the business was absorbed as part of Software Kinetics. From these small beginnings, Barry’s company provided several IT staff back to the NSCC – Joy Brown, Kathleen Stewart and Jim Verran. Barry retired to Bridgetown; Paul moved to other opportunities.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program

The GIS program evolved directly from the SCP program and with Bob’s geographic background it was inevitable that geographic applications would become a specialist focus. The history of this interest goes back to Bob’s Computer Mapping courses at Memorial University between 1972-75. At that time, the products were SYMAP and SYMVU from the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics. The software developers at Harvard included, Nick Chrisman, Geoff Dutton and Scott Morehouse. Nick eventually joined the university community, e.g. GEOIDE at Laval. Scott was persuaded by Jack Dangermond to join Esri, relocate to California, and to bring with him the underlying concepts behind Arc/Info. From the COGS perspective, it is remarkable that Scott Morehouse and Dave Bishop visited COGS in 1982/83 to install the original Arc/Info system on our PRIME computer.

We initially staffed the GIS program, internally, with Bob Maher and Pat Castel and later we hired Chris Gold. Chris stayed for a few years, before heading off to the university community at Memorial University, Laval University and then to Wales.

The one year, fifty week intensive program was phased out in 1989. Thereafter it became a two-semester program alongside the Remote Sensing program. Students wishing to conduct intensive project work stayed a second year for the Integrated Studies (GIS and RS) program. Much later, this was superseded by the joint M.Sc degree in Applied Geomatics.

Information Technology (IT) programs

With the standardization of two semester programs under the NSCC, the SCP program was phased out and replaced by Computer Programming technician (1990-1995). This program was relocated from Lawrencetown to Middleton in 1997. The key staff for this program (Marlin Gould, Roger Mosher and Bill Power) were all SCP graduates. They continued to offer programming courses at NSCC until their respective retirement.

These brief stories show that COGS always attempted to balance a combination of ‘home grown’ technical expertise with new concepts and staff from elsewhere. Many of the instructors were recruited from across Canada but chose to remain in the Annapolis Valley after they gave up their teaching duties at COGS/NSCC.

Remote Sensing program

John Wightman initiated the Remote Sensing program in 1978. It was restructured several times to conform to the changes in the technology, and the related GIS program. Throughout these changes, Dr. Manou Akhavi remained one of the instructors. He was joined briefly by David Sherstone, and later by Edward Wedler through most of the 1980’s. Finally, Tim Webster became an instructor who continued through the COGS transition.

Business Computer Programming program

This program had the shortest duration at COGS. It was taught for one year with instructors coming from Halifax. Within the year, it was evident that the process would be much more efficient if instructors and students were resident in the metro area. Alan Connors and David Dunphy relocated the program to Nova Scotia Institute of Technology (NSIT).

The Support team at COGS

To meet the goals of the intensive programs and to provide technical support to students, we needed a dedicated support team. Computer systems do not run without service and maintenance. Initially, Pat Castel combined her instructor duties with systems maintenance. Pat was later replaced by Pearl Chambers, a graduate of the BCP program. Later again, Dan Spearns, another CG graduate, assumed these responsibilities. Today, Dan provides regional IT support for the NSCC, whereas Tim Mooney offers local technical support.

The Dramowicz story

Konrad and Ela were both Geographers at the University of Warsaw in Poland. Konrad entered the GIS program in 1988. With help from John Wightman, he was able to sustain himself. In 1991, his wife, Ela was able to enroll in the GIS program and later the Integrated Studies program.

As a team, the Dramowicz’ started to offer the Business Geographics (BG) program in 1997.  In 2004, the name was changed to GIS for Business. Today, it has become an elective within the Advanced Diploma in Geographic Sciences.