The Education Issue

Based on what I see across the country, I’m pleased to report that surveying education is alive and well in America. While a few programs are still struggling, most are thriving and providing graduates who are eagerly snapped up. It’s been this way for a long time. After all, what’s not to like about multiple job offers? These market-driven programs have sprung up to address a continuing need for trained surveyors.

Like many of my generation, I turned my back on college. Heck, I was so smart I even blew off my GI Bill money. And now, we see thousands of college graduates who can’t get a job because they didn’t choose their major wisely. But even though I didn’t want to attend college, beginning with the introduction of electronics to measuring, for the first time in our history—notwithstanding blunders—we could get an incorrect answer. How many of you have had an EDM provide a bad distance?

Before electronics, each distance slipped through our hands with the chain, our eyes had to read scales to determine angles, and our hands wrote each measurement in a book. Now, we became dependent on electrons to accomplish all these tasks. The upside is that our work became more accurate and precise. And it became more productive. Many of you have seen the reduction in the number of people needed, from 6-8 on government survey crews all the way to the one-person crew.

Easily and cheaply available least squares software in the early 1990s was the first time we began to really understand our measurements, but the real sea change came with GPS: for the first time you could get a wrong answer. And GPS measurements are highly dependent on least squares adjustments. Liability-conscious and ethical surveyors understood this and educated themselves or hired expert help to avoid it. But based on what I’m hearing there are still way too many people using GNSS gear that are clueless. And now we have an entirely new group of people using GNSS, the GIS crowd.

The sea change came just as I became a magazine editor. And based on what I saw I changed my opinion about college and have steadily beat both the two-year and four-year degree requirement drum for nearly 30 years. Before, mentoring and experience was enough. But GPS showed us a glaring hole in our education.

In this issue, Chuck Ghilani and Tom Seybert provide an analysis of one of the oldest surveying programs in the country: Penn State. The authors wanted to know how the graduates from 1989-2016 turned out. A Florida firm shows us the cool way they are using technology to attract new surveyors. And Carol Morman and Jim Decker give another account of the Capstone project for students at Cincinnati State. Each article shows the value and benefit of education and outreach.

Elsewhere in the issue, Bart Crattie discusses an important boundary stone under 25 feet of water. Scuba gear was required for recovery. Lloyd Pilchen provides an installment about land grants, with incredible maps to support the story. And Angus Stocking wraps up the Carlson Software story in Part 2. Well worth reading. Carl De Baca gives us a look at artificial intelligence and how it can be used for surveying. Depending on how you look at it, AI is either scary and dangerous, or it has the potential to change our profession for the better.

All in all, the state of surveying education is good, at least in my opinion. In these days of rapid change, it’s hard to predict the future, but as far as I’m concerned, the tireless people who staff all the various programs are to be commended for their efforts.

About the Author

Marc Cheves, PS

Marc Cheves is editor emeritus of the magazine. He has been a surveyor since 1963 and is licensed in five states. Since 1995 he has been a surveying magazine editor.