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Your ideal course requirements for a surveying degree?

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Jon Payne
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I was going to post this in an earlier thread about a program complaint and equipment, but could not find that post.  It is probably better as a stand alone post anyway.  In that earlier post, there was discussion about the use of new(er) instrumentation versus foundational knowledge with a slight implication that the two wouldn't work well together.  I spent some time teaching at the regional university and found it to be a constant battle to balance fundamentals, class room work, lab work, automation (i.e. data collectors or software vs hand recording and drafting) and getting any meaningful lab projects within the lab time allotted.

I know there are good programs already out there, but if you were in charge of developing a land surveying program from scratch and given a decent budget to do so (something that is rare as far as I can tell), what would your course work suggestions and instrumentation requirements be?  How would you implement instrumentation while also developing understanding of the principles?

Restrictions: maximum of 60 hours available as the typical 120 hour Bachelor's degree will have about 60 hours of university required general education, courses with lab are considered 4 credit hours, and courses such as management or business often do not fall into the narrow window of university approved gen ed - so if you ad those in they count in your 60 hours to fill up.

Posted : August 18, 2022 4:45 pm
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I view it as twofold:

technician level 1 year program
Let them get their hands on modern equipment, you have a limited amount of time to get them minimally competent, and get the skills to get a job.

2 years (or more)
Introduce them to older equipment, so they understand the fundamentals of how things work, and have the knowledge of how the machinery is utilized with the mathematics to convert measurements to coordinates. These are the students that are going to write the next generation of software programs, so a functional knowledge of how things work is key.

Posted : August 18, 2022 6:14 pm
Dave Karoly
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Setting up a tribrach/tripod 101

Posted : August 18, 2022 6:28 pm
ncsudirtman reacted

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Geodesy, coordinate systems, error propagation and analysis, boundary and topographical survey standards and procedures as foundational classwork.  Labwork heavy on good Static/RTK procedures and limitations, robotics, scanning.  There's a start.  If I had the privilege of designing a program, I'd put a lot of time into designing it, floating the concept, like here.  Excellent discussion item!

Posted : August 18, 2022 7:05 pm
ncsudirtman reacted
Dave Lindell
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Ditch the old fashioned transits (but not the levels) except for one session where you explain "lower motion", "upper motion", four-screw leveling, and angle reading with a vernier (turn right, read left).  Nobody who hires them will have one for their use.  As summerprophet says, get 'em qualified to do some real work with the equipment they will encounter.  Besides, everyone wants to run the instrument!

Posted : August 18, 2022 8:00 pm
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not my real name
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I was asked to be the surveying instructor on one of my visits to the university after graduation. They said they had a transit, and I asked what they intended me to do with it. Short story. I wasn't interested. 

Posted : August 18, 2022 8:08 pm

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Setting And staking: A study in hubs versus nails, hammer sizes, and effective use of other tools to get the job done.



Posted : August 18, 2022 8:57 pm
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As far as instrumentation goes, the latest and greatest you can get...future employers will come knocking at the door for your graduates if the hardware is fairly current from ±5 years. Especially the bright yellow cases in my experience.

One recommendation I have is to teach a quick lecture and lab or two about using Microsoft Excel...even just a general overview of how it works and practice of a few basic functions like "SUM" or "Sort by Values". I'm not sure if this is already taught in high school since we are well into the digital age nowadays, but it's something I wish more of the new people were comfortable with when entering the profession (especially when they get their first csv of points that doesn't import correctly).

Posted : August 18, 2022 9:03 pm
Jon Payne, ncsudirtman, Brad Ott and 2 people reacted
Field Dog
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Posted by: @7_foot_foresight

especially when they get their first csv of points that doesn't import correctly


Posted : August 19, 2022 4:03 am

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Elementary Surveying: An Introduction to Geomatics, is timeless and can be taught in a procession of classes.  

My professor had us sign out his assortment of old and new data collectors and go through the settings to make them talk to the older TSs.  The troubleshooting aspect of matching baud rates etc. was more valuable than focusing on one particular new instrument.  Given the class size of surveyors, and the weight of bureaucracy, it seems like a pipe dream to get new scanners and robots in the class.

For the senior seminar or capstone, we had to perform a boundary survey from client contact to delivery of plat along with a binder containing supplemental data obtained.  We had a list of people who were willing to let us survey their property for free, and were expected to communicate directly with them.  The professor made sure to adhere to all laws, the owners were fully aware that it was a college exercise and we all signed statements to that effect. Much of this was performed on weekends and outside allotted class time.

Similar to the above, I would like to see an entire semester focused around business management.  Each student would operate under a fictitious LLC.  The general progression would be as follows:

  1. Establish LLC and mission statement
  2. Research and "purchase" necessary equipment and supplies for boundary surveying and construction staking
  3. Translate business costs into minimum fees. 
    1. Insurance $1M+
    2. Two field crews, each consisting of Party Chief and Crew Member
    3. Health insurance, Payroll taxes etc.
    4. Equipment depreciation
  4. Draft proposal for a somewhat simple ALTA that FC#1 will work on
  5. Draft proposal for a twenty-lot residential subdivision staking project for FC#2
    1. Curb and gutter
    2. Sewer
    3. Water
    4. Grade stakes at lot corners
  6. The ALTA will focus on legal risk with the professor acting as a title attorney and emailing various requests such as, but not limited to 😉 :
    1. Inclusion of additional parties on certification
    2. Request for increased insurance
    3. Additional language on plat
    4. Removal of language from plat
  7. Construction staking would similarly incorporate typical scenarios that spring up. 
    1. Email containing updated plans with unspecified, and subtle, changes to sewer layout
    2. Incorrectly labeled stake causes curb to be installed incorrectly
    3. Contractor disputes bill

The overall focus would be to get the student to understand that risk/benefit must be considered and incorporated into fees.  

With the ALTA, the underlying message is that title companies and lenders assess risk and may try to pin it all on you if you let them.  Understanding that we provide a quasi-insurance will help to properly assess the value of a given project.

In construction, getting paid $800 to layout columns for a cross-street catwalk is silly.  If your thought process is, "It'll only take three hours for the field crew and zero CAD time", you're not considering all factors.

Posted : August 19, 2022 4:14 am
SReeserinPA, Jon Payne, ncsudirtman and 1 people reacted
Field Dog
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Include a course named Field to Finish. This course would emphasize workflow, particularly how to execute the field part of a job with an emphasis on what is and isn't needed to meet the requirements of a job.

Posted : August 19, 2022 4:25 am
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James Fleming
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  • Probability, Statistics, and Error Propagation
  • Principles Of Photogrammetry And Remote Sensing
  • Land Planning
  • Subdivision Planning And Design
  • Organizational Leadership And Supervision
  • Land Use and Zoning
  • Introduction to Interdisciplinary Design
  • Introduction to Contract Law, Contract Dispute Resolution, and Professional Liability
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  • A practicum requirement where they have to work in an actual office




Posted : August 19, 2022 4:36 am
SReeserinPA, BushAxe, Jon Payne and 4 people reacted

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One example of blending procedures.

Teach the students to layout a house using only a steel tape and math. Check it with a transit or total station. Then layout a curved roadway, and a parcel with a transit and tape and then again with a GPS. Then check it with a robotic TS. Do a topo with stadia then compare wirh a drone topo or lidar. This is how most of learned the accuracy of different tools and procedures on our own. 

Posted : August 19, 2022 4:52 am
SReeserinPA, Jon Payne, OleManRiver and 2 people reacted
ARS Mine Surveyor
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Good luck with 60 hours. The only 4 year program in NY offers 46 hours of surveying specific classes, it is ABET accredited.

20 years ago we started with tape and transit and worked our way up to total stations and GPS with a T2 thrown in the middle.

I know they have up to date equipment but it is mostly used in the first 2 years of the program.

Posted : August 19, 2022 5:06 am
Jon Payne reacted
holy cow
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Mandatory course in trigger-nom-a-tree.  Not just plain old sine, cosine, tangent stuff.  The real stuff that geodesists need to grasp.  Every day we are getting further away from the plain old straight line system that has been used since the Eqyptians or earlier.  It's like thinking in metric instead of English units.  You have to change your mindset.  One day it will be all coordinates and metadata.

Posted : August 19, 2022 6:40 am

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