What is T-REX’s role in the advancement of geospatial intelligence?

Early on, we built a really strong relationship with the NGA in an effort to serve their mission in St. Louis, which we knew would also serve our nonprofit regional economic development mission. We are an innovation center focused on advanced information technologies, and so the needs of the NGA around technologies and hard problems fit right into our own mission locally.

[This relationship] has turned into an effort of the NGA to build Moonshot Labs within T-REX, which was just announced a couple of weeks ago. Prior to that announcement, we built a geospatial innovation center at T-REX and have developed programming—and are launching even more programming—around building the geospatial talent pipeline, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship focused in the geospatial world.

What services does T-REX provide?

T-REX is an innovation center focused on advanced information technologies. We provide programming and resources for innovators and entrepreneurs with the hope that, as innovation proceeds, new companies will be created, which will result in more job creation and more interest in St. Louis. There is great talent and expertise to address some of the hard problems, not only within the NGA and defense fields, but in many industries, almost all of which now are using geospatial information to make strategic decisions or even to craft solutions for their companies.

What is T-REX’s involvement with USGIF?

T-REX’s involvement with USGIF has been, I believe, extraordinary. Early on, we developed an MOU with USGIF to work on mutual goals and objectives, mostly focused on the talent pipeline and university relationships. That has led to a lot of brain power across the two organizations being used to ensure that we can employ best practices in St. Louis from what the USGIF has learned in its efforts over these many years throughout the country.

I’m honored to serve as the subcommittee chair for USGIF’s St. Louis Area Working Group. We focus on a variety of ways to help build the talent pipeline in St. Louis, and also to get universities connected to one another and to the NGA and USGIF for additional resources that they might need and that they might foresee.

There is a recognized national security concern about that STEM pipeline and not having enough U.S.-born STEM graduates from American universities that can work for the intelligence community. What role does T-REX play in reaching students?

It certainly is a major concern on behalf of the entire intelligence community, but it’s a national issue that we are falling far behind in the number of STEM graduates in the United States and are not as competitive with other countries as we have been in the past.

We need to pull together as a country to ensure that we can focus efforts on educational initiatives going forward, specifically with respect to STEM, and we are looking at every mechanism locally that we can use to ensure that we can reach kids wherever they are. Not every kid is going to be a kid that wants to go to university and not every kid is going to go into geospatial. But if we can expose kids to the possibilities that are in front of them, and help their parents understand what those opportunities are, then we can engage kids and keep them engaged, so they can be successful in the future.

And we’ve got to take advantage of these moments, these catalyzing pieces like the NGA’s new campus, and leverage them to the hilt and do as much as we can and go as far as we can to help our communities.

What can industry do now to address this concern about the STEM pipeline?

One way is for industry to become more engaged with universities specifically, but maybe even earlier on to ensure that kids get exposed. One way we’re looking at doing this is beginning an outreach effort to engage our industry partners in offering a mini-lecture series to schools that are looking for curricula enhancement.

I think the other thing that’s missing is in terms of equitable educational outreach. A lot of kids who are first-generation college students, or are going to trade school or community college, have to work. They don’t have the ability to not make money while they’re going to school. So, we have to figure out ways where we can ensure that kids who want to pursue an education in these areas can do it and, at the same time, support themselves or their families in one way or another. That’s the only way that we’re going to get kids from under-resourced areas involved, giving them a pathway that really takes them into building an educational portfolio.

Feature photo credit: R.J. HARTBECK

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