John J. “JJ” Nelson, lead instructor for the geographic information systems (GIS) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) programs at Del Mar College (DMC), has received the HI-TEC Educator of the Year Recognition Award for 2019 from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program. The award recognizes Nelson’s exemplary service to students at DMC and throughout the United States in the areas of GIS and UAS.
“Geospatial technology is going on around us all the time, and you can use it in so many different industries and career fields,” Nelson said. “I’m part of a team working toward the goal of spreading awareness about geospatial technology. It’s kind of nice when your work is recognized.”
Nelson is also project director for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technology Education Consortium (UASTEC), which includes Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation. He is a subject matter expert on grants, and he has helped obtain millions of dollars in grants through organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence, the National Information, Security & Geospatial Technology Center, the U.S. Department of Labor, the GIS-TECH project and the UASTEC.
Along with grants, Nelson is instrumental in leveraging life-changing internships for DMC students with institutions including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.
Collaborating with grant partners, Nelson has helped develop curriculum for GIS and UAS courses that is provided not only at DMC but also at other colleges and high schools throughout South Texas and the United States, said Shannon Ydoyaga, Ph.D., former DMC dean of Health Sciences and Professional Education.
“Nelson’s passion for geographic information systems and unmanned aircraft systems is simply infectious. He is consistently meeting with students or attending community events to teach people about the capability of drones and the technology related to the analysis of spatial locations.”
Ydoyaga added that the GIS and UAS courses are also disseminated through national clearinghouses such as the Skills Commons website (www.[http://skillscommons.org)/]skillscommons.org).
Additionally, Nelson is DMC’s lead organizer and promoter of Coastal Bend GIS Day, an event that is held annually in November and is now in its 21st year. The event attracts between 600 and 1,000 attendees each year, including GIS professionals and students from kindergarten through 12th grade.