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Casper College receives $132,000 for geology and GIS programs

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Central Wyoming SME Section donation to Casper College

From left, earth science instructor Beth Wisely, GIS instructor Jeff Sun, geology instructor Kent Sundell and Casper College Foundation Executive Director Denise Bressler, accept a $132,000 donation from Central Wyoming SME Section on Wednesday, at the Tate Geological Museum.

Casper College staff and Society of Mining members gathered among glass cases and rock specimens at the Tate Geological Museum for a photograph with a giant check.

Casper College received a $132,000 donation on Wednesday from the Central Wyoming section of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME). The donation is for the college’s geology and Geographic Information System (GIS) programs.

Treasurer of the Central Wyoming SME section Wayne Heili and his chapter approached the college in October about donating money to the college. Faculty members presented a proposal to the society shortly after. The resulting grant supports a large part of that proposal.

“Our endowment has grown, and we were looking for a way that we could share that blessing with the school here at Casper College,” Heili said at the donation ceremony.

“It’s a very important way of reminding humanity about the importance of the mineral extraction industry,” he said.

GIS instructor Jeff Sun said the department will buy three small drones and one larger drone along with two drone cameras with money from the grant.

One of the cameras is a $30,000 Light Detection and Ranging camera and will be a new feature of the department. It shoots down a radar signal that bounces back to the camera. That information can be used to make 3D images.

Sun said this technology will help students make maps. The drones also make it easier to keep these maps updated since they’re convenient and less expensive compared to taking images from a helicopter or airplane.

Geology instructor Kent Sundell will also use some of the grant to buy drilling supplies and fund student research in a yearslong project to map a 280 million year old impact crater field near Douglas.

The study that Sundell co-authored in Nature says this is the oldest and among the largest impact crater strewn fields discovered to date. He said that “there’s nowhere else we can go except the moon” to see something similar.

The donation will also pay for a part-time position at the Tate Geological Museum. The hire will help the museum create a program showcasing the mining industry through guest speakers and field trips.

“Having modern educational tools will help the college generate graduates that are capable of meeting the challenges of a technologically advanced mining industry,” Dayton Lewis, Central Wyoming SME section chairman, said.


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