Peter Sforza, director and research scientist at the Center for Geospatial Information Technology at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2011 XCaliber Award for excellence as an individual involved in teaching with technology.

Established in 1996 by Office of the Provost, the XCaliber Award (shorthand for exceptional, high-caliber work) is presented annually by the Virginia Tech Center for Innovation in Learning to recognize individual faculty members or teams of faculty and staff who integrate technology in teaching and learning. The award celebrates innovative, student-centered approaches to learning activities. Awardees receive a $1,000 cash award and are called upon to demonstrate their work.

Sforza, an instructor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment College's Department of Geography, received the award in recognition of his course, Geography 4984/5984: Web Mapping. Through this course, students learn the theoretical and societal context of Web mapping while gaining experience implementing interactive mapping applications in a collaborative working environment.

The course helps student understand Web maps in the context of spatial data infrastructures from global to local scales. Students examine technical issues of the interoperability of services and data, as well as the human and organizational issues that are common to geospatial coordination.

The fundamental building blocks that enable Web-mapping technologies are a part of the course that provides students knowledge to understand current and next generation software and technology. In addition, students learn how to choose the appropriate Web-mapping solution for a particular problem.

Students also learn strategies and options for developing base maps that serve as background or context for overlay of thematic or operational data. Students learn techniques to optimize the symbology, presentation, and delivery of Web maps. Both two-dimensional and three-dimensional Web cartography are covered in the course.

This course has facilitated successful projects that include clients from the local community. Working with the efforts of the 3D Blacksburg Collaborative, group projects have focused on the theme of virtual cities, with the Web map deliverable being publicly or privately available, and having a recognizable value to the local community.

This year's course was made up of about half graduate and half undergraduates students who, in addition to group projects, also carry out an individual project. The 2011 Web mapping class projects used the data infrastructure (terrain, building models) of 3D Blacksburg to develop applications for solar analysis, pedestrian routing, WiFi mapping, and soundscape mapping.

Sforza received his bachelor's degree and master’s degree from Virginia Tech.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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