STEMM Idol Speaker Andrew Shepherd

Students watched in the CIL as guest speaker Andrew Shepherd of Riverside Research rerouted an airplane’s flight path to avoid an oncoming storm with just the click of a mouse, and while the plane and weather were only virtual, he made it evident that the real world applications of such technology permeate career fields in today’s science and math industries.

The cutting-edge technology, ironically, is grounded in a scientific discipline that is nearly as old as the planet itself known as geodesy. Through measurements and mapping, geodesy allows scientists to gain a better understanding of the Earth, which can be used to study both the aerospace and environmental arenas.

From his laptop, Shepherd demonstrated to those in Mrs. Secor’s geometry class the usefulness of 4-D modeling and satellite imaging using computer software known as a Satellite Tool Kit. The program, similar to Google maps but operated by a physics and math engine, can assist students and professionals with everything from calculating the shortest distance between two coordinates on Earth to helping border patrol agents plan missions, objectives and tasks.

“You’re always dealing with trigonometry and geometry when you’re calculating these kinds of missions,” he told students. In addition, the CJ STEMM Idol speaker also demonstrated electronic surveying techniques using a simulated model of the city of Dayton, and showed ways to predict how and when tide levels at coasts around the world will be affected by natural disasters such as tsunamis.

As an adjunct faculty member at both Sinclair Community College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Shepherd is familiar with lecturing to students. He stressed the importance of a having a solid foundation in math, but highlighted the value of keeping in mind an end-goal.

“In everything from algebra to physics, if you can look and see that there are fun applications for the math you’re using, it is going to be more meaningful and practical for you.”

Shepherd, a Dayton-area native, comes from a family of pilots and actually learned how to fly before he could drive. He supports the development of innovative modeling and simulation tools at the Riverside Research Institute, a non-profit organization involved in the fields of intelligence, remote sensing and surveillance.