by Doug Bramwell
Back in old army days, the mechanics of surveying were included in the required civil engineering classes. In those times, knowing how to survey and take proper field measurements was equivalent to being able to use Manning’s equation for open channel flow, or performing dirt volume calculations. As time marched on, classes became more and more specialized, removing from them the surveying component that existed; and as the number of required hours to graduate were revised, the survey component of those classes were removed. That capstone design course that used to occur over the summer in Junction, Texas, was changed to a shorter duration class at Riverside Campus, which has now been rebranded as the RELLIS Campus, and eventually removed from the required curriculum completely.
It wasn’t until 2001 when the Civil Engineering Advisory Committee told the Texas A&M Civil Engineering Department that in general all A&M civil engineering students lacked the practical knowledge and application of land surveying. To help addresses this problem, Bob Jones, Class of 1969, and cofounder of Jones|Carter, asked Carlos P. Cotton, Class of 1973, to design a senior level survey course which provides an overall curriculum of land surveying. In May of 2002, Jones|Carter, along with other industry leaders and in conjunction with Texas A&M University, offered a two week mini-mester survey course to all the junior and senior level civil engineering students to learn how to succeed in an engineering firm, and lead a new generation of engineers… which is commonly known as Survey Camp.
Now in its 15th year, the two-week Survey Camp provides real world experience and learning through four key components:
- Topographic surveys – Completing a topographic survey from the data the students obtained in the field, utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and creating a topographic map of the area surveyed using CAD.
- Construction site staking – Learning how to read construction plans, and staking for construction pavement, waterlines, fire hydrants, storm sewer, storm inlets, sanitary sewer, and property corners.
- Boundary surveying – Read and interpret recorded deeds, plat and easements from the public record, plotting out these deeds and fitting them together, learning the dignity of calls and participating in a boundary analysis, and preparing a final boundary survey drawing along with a metes and bounds of the tract.
- Platting – Taking a piece of land with all the constraints of adjacent roadway, drainage, etc. and providing a subdivision of the parent tract into new roadways and lots for sale by our fictional land developer.
Class is held for a minimum of eight hours a day, six days a week either being “in the office” (the computer lab in the Civil Engineering building), or “in the field” (out in the fields of the RELLIS Campus). These young engineers are exposed to and get to use all types of equipment such as a standard total stations and data collectors, robotic total stations, GPS w/GLONASS, as well as different office and field techniques and procedures necessary for successful civil engineering projects.
By the end of this two-week accredited course, students are able to identify, formulate and apply their surveying skills to solve civil engineering problems, are better equipped to work on multi-disciplinary teams, and have a better understanding of the professional and ethical responsibility in conducting surveys. What’s more, students learn about the business side of surveying.
Most of all, after attending Survey Camp, these engineering students are much more valuable and are better prepared for employment. With the understanding of how surveying data is collected, and their ability to utilize this data, these young civil engineers are that much further ahead on the road to a successful and fulfilling career.