Germanna Community College’s (GCC) main campus is located in Spotsylvania county, and the college also serves the City of Fredericksburg and counties of Caroline, Culpeper, King George, Madison, Orange, and Stafford. GCC has a total enrollment of all full- and part-time students of 9,583 and serves an ethnically and gender diverse population of students. Faculty from GCC have been key participants in previous GeoTEd-UAS projects. GCC is committed to building pathways in sUAS and geospatial technology and to integrating sUAS, geographic information systems (GIS), and geospatial technology into courses in many different disciplines.


Dr. Shawn Shields Lyons (Co-PI), Professor of Chemistry and GIS, Science Department Co-Chair, is a member of the leadership team. Dr. Shields Lyons will develop new courses and modify existing ones in geospatial technology and sUAS in collaboration with the team. She will co-develop an online FAA Part 107 course and support the training of other faculty. Motivated by her participation in prior GeoTEd-UAS projects, she has completed graduate coursework at Northeastern University and Virginia Tech to obtain the credentials required to teach geospatial technology and sUAS coursework. She obtained her FAA Remote Pilot Certificate while a participant in the previous GeoTEd-UAS project.


Diana Merkel, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Information Systems Technology/Cybersecurity/Computer Science will co-lead GCC’s partnership in the project.  Merkel will develop and implement the new sUAS and geospatial technology content in IT and computer science courses. Merkel  led GCC in earning the designation as a Center of Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. Both Dr. Shields Lyons and Merkel will support faculty institutes by providing coordination, instruction, and mentoring following the institutes. They will support other participating GCC faculty as they integrate content and SSL projects across the curriculum. They will consult with local and state industry, government agencies, and other organizations in the development of new pathways and SSL projects.


Ben Sherman, Business and Career Coordinator will support the project as subject-matter expert and facilitate connections between GCC’s prior successful workforce development efforts in sUAS to the project goals. Sherman will build on experience working with local high schools, with sUAS events as part of local air festivals, and strong industry and partner relationships. He will facilitate interactions with business and industry in the service region.

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) is part of NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. Established in 1989, VSGC  is a coalition of five Virginia colleges and universities, NASA, state educational agencies, Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, and other institutions representing diverse science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and research. VSGC is an affiliate of the Old Dominion University Research Foundation which serves as its fiscal agent. On behalf of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and partners, VSGC has performed as the lead administrator and project manager for all of the team’s previous NSF-ATE projects. GCC (through the VCCS) and VT are members of the Consortium. VSGC’s flexible fiscal capabilities and extensive state and national network allow the Consortium to leverage resources and facilitate connections for all partners.


Chris Carter, VSGC Deputy Director, is Project PI and will provide fiscal and administrative oversight. Carter holds an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate with seven years of operations experience and more than 25 years of experience leading and managing projects including 17 years with VSGC. He serves on the Virginia UAS Work Group which provides subject-matter expertise to advise the Commonwealth on policy, safe operations, economic development, and workforce development. Carter will contribute to institute planning and instruction and support outreach events and other project activities.


Cherie Aukland (Co-PI) will be a faculty consultant and serve as a co-lead on the leadership team. Aukland is Associate Professor of IT and Program Head for GIS at Thomas Nelson Community College. A former software engineer, she has been a full-time faculty for almost 20 years. Aukland holds an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate with more than seven years of sUAS experience. She is also a former remote-controlled hobbyist pilot with hundreds of flight hours. Aukland has experience co-designing and programming sensors including near infrared and LiDAR for quadcopters. Flying manually and autonomous missions, she has been collecting data for use in geospatial technology classes and has experience developing materials and providing instruction in sUAS and data analysis. She co-developed all GIS and sUAS courses for the VCCS and has co-coordinated all student service-learning projects.  Under her leadership, Thomas Nelson developed GIS and sUAS pathways and integrated sUAS across the curriculum.


David Webb (Co-PI) will also serve as a faculty consultant and a co-lead on the project leadership team. Webb recently retired as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology. Webb previously served as Program Head for GIS at another Virginia community college and has more than 30 years of teaching experience. He has more than six years of experience with sUAS operation, repair, sensors, data collection, and data analysis with indoor and outdoor equipment. He has experimented with sensors to collect infra-red, near infrared, true color and LiDAR data. He co-developed and has co-coordinated all of the project’s student service-learning projects. With Aukland, Webb co-developed all GIS and sUAS courses for the VCCS through previous projects. Aukland and Webb also have led the Institute instruction in geospatial technology and UAS in all previous projects led by this team.


Dr. Scott Bellows, VSGC Technical Programs Coordinator, coordinates the Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program ( and will facilitate employer and student awareness of CSIIP to leverage the program for student internship placements. Bellows will also coordinate and support the precollege outreach events and contribute to the institute instruction. He holds an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate with five years of operations experience and 17 years of experience as a geospatial technology professional. He serves as adjunct faculty at Thomas Nelson Community College teaching the UMS Part 107 course.

The Virginia Geospatial Extension   Program (VGEP) in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech serves to directly support the role of Virginia’s communities and other stakeholders, by engaging professionals and organizations through technical training and assistance, through the development of educational resources, and through the identification and development of geospatial applications. The Geospatial Extension Program also coordinates with other organizations that have a vested interest in empowering local stakeholders and educators to better support the management of Virginia’s resources.


Dr. John McGee (Co-PI), Virginia Geospatial Extension Program (VGEP) Specialist at VT will lead VT’s role in hosting and coordinating the PD Institute and mentoring faculty. McGee has served on several UAS panels as a subject matter expert. His team has logged hundreds of hours of sUAS operations and has hosted, organized, and taught workshops, symposia, conference tracks, and institutes. He is the co-author of several textbooks on the use of GIS and Remote Sensing. The VGEP and its partners also provide sUAS support to local, state, and federal partners in applications from natural resource management to disaster assessment. McGee can leverage Virginia Tech’s UAS resources, which include UAVs, sensors (including true color, NIR, thermal, multispectral and lidar), Virginia Tech’s 3-million cubic foot netted drone park, advanced teaching and computer processing facilities, and other personnel.


Daniel Cross is UAS/GIS Operator in the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech. He holds an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate with more than 10  years of operations experience. He will provide instruction during the faculty institutes and support student and faculty service-learning projects.

The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is the state agency that provides oversight and leadership for the 23 community colleges in Virginia.  Dr. Dan Lewis, Director of Higher Education Programs will lead VCCS’s partnership in the project. Carla J. Kimbrough, VCCS Diversity and Strategic Recruitment Manager, will advise and support the team in developing strategies for diversity recruitment and retention.


Public and private partnerships with NASA and business and industry are critical to the success of preparing the UAS workforce. The following partnering organizations and individuals are significant contributors and supporters of the GeoTEd-UAS project.