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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume VII, Issue 1||January 2004|
By Mary N. Cloutier
This month marks the start of Capitol Campus’ second year. “Capitol Campus”, a collaboration between the State and the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA), offers courses taught by university professors/instructors to State employees in State facilities.
|UMA’s Computer Information Systems (CIS) courses fall into six focus areas: web design; programming; systems analysis/database design; Linux (open source); Geographic Information Systems (GIS); and Beowulf (Linux cluster). GIS is a new offering and has been developed with funding from the National Science Foundation grant. Approved in June of 2002, this grant (a first for UMA), enabled the development of an integrated undergraduate GIS curriculum for five University of Maine campuses.|
Therefore, students take essentially the same GIS class at UMA, and at UM 1) Fort Kent (which specializes in using GIS in forestry applications); 2) Machias (which specializes in meteorology applications); 3) Southern Maine and Farmington (which specialize in geography applications). The grant also purchased two survey grade GPS receivers and ESRI software for students’ use. Dr. Szakas emphasizes the key role GIS plays in making spatial decisions, for example, assessing the effectiveness of crime fighting programs.
Like GIS, Beowulf is a new UMA initiative. You’ll remember from your high school reading that Beowulf is a monster. Based upon his PhD dissertation, Joe is leading the Beowulf initiative, which will harness the power of individual desktop computers into a parallel processing “monster” super computer. (Dr. Szakas earned a Doctor of Philosophy in June 1997, from Ohio State University. His major was Geodetic Science - Computer Cartography.) Dr. Szakas plans to use the Beowulf cluster with his research interest in crime mapping on areas with heavy computational requirements (e.g. optimal police patrol routes that minimize response times.)
Initially, as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, Joe didn’t do well in computer classes. He says, “Because I struggled, I can appreciate what students go through.” However, Joe didn’t quit taking computer classes to become a history teacher like his Dad. By the time he was a senior, Joe noted “I got it”, and he majored in computer science and minored in math. Today Joe is a terrific teacher of non-traditional students like Capitol Campus’ state employees. Joe feels “any teacher should strive to answer the ‘why’ question – providing context and rationale – in order to transfer knowledge.”
He honed his craft while teaching computer classes at American military bases throughout Korea, while under contract with the University of Maryland. Why Korea? Joe’s wife, Kathleen, is a major in the Air Force Reserves and she was stationed there 3/99-5/2000. They are the parents of a two year old daughter, and are expecting that a “new version will come on-line” in March, 2004. With Kathleen, Joe has traveled the world extensively and notes that “news articles do not adequately reflect the danger or pressure felt by US troops overseas.”
Dr. Szakas has been the Coordinator of the University of Maine at Augusta’s Department of Computer Information Systems since September 2001. See http://cisx2.uma.maine.edu/ for a detailed explanation of UMA’s associate, bachelor and post Baccalaureate offerings. He may be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.