Brigham Young University students will soon have access to the same high-tech mapping system used by the U.S. military to target cruise missiles and assess bomb damage in the Persian Gulf.
A $300,000 equipment donation by Intergraph Corp., a Fortune 500 company based in Huntsville, Ala., will make BYU one of just a handful of universities across the country to receive the specialty technology.Intergraph is the federal government's main supplier of computer graphics and mapping equipment. Its products are also used in city planning, emergency dispatch and energy exploration.
"The use of Intergraph equipment for training our students provides them with an excellent opportunity for employment when they leave the university," said Perry Hardin, a BYU assistant professor of geography.
"Employers are already showing interest in what we're doing," he said. "Intergraph-trained graduates are in great demand."
On Friday, BYU inaugurated its new "Intergraph Laboratory for Geographic Information Analysis," where geography students and faculty will use the new technology to study everything from wildlife habitats to land use in Third World countries.
According to Tina T. Underwood of Intergraph, BYU anticipates assisting the United States as well as other countries to solve land-related problems.
Hardin said university faculty will work with the U.S. Forest Service to survey habitats most favorable for reintroduction of bighorn sheep populations into the Uinta Mountains.
BYU will also work with Intergraph researchers to study the first satellite scatterometer pictures of land surfaces, he said, to see whether such imagery can be used to monitor deforestation of rain forests in Brazil and Africa.
Intergraph officials said they were attracted to BYU because of the university's interdisciplinary approach to use of the equipment, as well as the foreign language proficiency of its students.
"BYU is breaking new ground in the mapping sciences," said Intergraph vice president Rob Glasier. "We are pleased to provide Intergraph systems to help BYU pursue these endeavors."
According to Underwood, Intergraph lauds BYU for its foreign language expertise, which will enable the university to address international concerns.
Hardin said BYU has been working with computerized geographic information systems for years, but the university has never been completely satisfied with the software it has tried.
"We are confident that Intergraph will give us the capabilities we have been seeking," he said.