Thursday, June 18, 2009

Want to Become a Land Surveryor?

My husband and I got invited to attend an educator's conference in the Houston area that took place this week. It was hosted by the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors and Lone Star College-Montgomery. It was one of the best conferences I have attended.

We arrived at the college in the afternoon and registered. We were treated to supper and then a keynote speaker explained the profession of surveying. He told us that there are less than 3,000 registered surveyors (compared to 80,000 engineers) in the state of Texas and that they have an average age of 58. Most of them just happened into their careers, while others followed in the steps of their fathers. You do have to have a bachelor's degree to become a registered surveyor, but there are openings in the surveying profession that only require a high school diploma, if even that.

These are some of the reasons the TSPS (Texas Society of Professional Surveyors) are having conferences like this. They want to help promote their profession and they want to start in the high schools. They are hoping teachers can help spread the word. They also have something similar for high school students in Tyler, Texas.

The next day we started at 7 AM with breakfast, then it was off to outside. Now keep in mind this was the Houston area in mid June. It was hot and humid! But we were getting to play with toys so it made up for it! Sides, what are you gonna do about the weather? We got to use surveying tools that help find elevation, distance, slope, and so much more on a piece of land, under the ocean, and just about anywhere where boundaries are needed.

We learned about pacing, which is estimating the length of a piece of land by walking it out. We had to first find our own pace by walking a marked off distance of 100 feet. Then we took how many steps we had in that set distance and divided by 100 feet to find out how long our stride was. Each step I take is about 2.13 feet. Short legs. Then we were given an unknown distance and had to determine the length of it from our pace. So, if I had walked 20 steps, I would multiply 20 by the 2.13 to find the unknown length. This is definitely something that I can use in my classroom.

They were showing us things that we could bring into our classroom to help students have a better grasp of math concepts and that dealt with surveying. In another activity, we had to find a way to measure between two points where a direct measurement could not be made, maybe there was a building between the two points. Using those two points (A and B) we picked an arbitrary point away from them called C and then we had a triangle. We could measure from A to C and also from B to C. So we did that. Then we took both of those measurements and chose a dilation. We picked an easy on of 1/2. So if from A to C was 68.4 feet we would then measure to half that measurement of 34.2 feet and place a flag at that mid-point. Once we did the same for the other side we now had similar triangles. You can find missing measurements using similar triangles and proportions. I already teach this in middle school and geometry. Taking the students outside and having them measure things instead of just seeing in a book really helps make the concept real to them.

Outside again, the next morning we got to work more with some of the tools of the trade and then we got to have some fun. We were all given hand held GPS units, which were ours to keep! They were preloaded with points around campus...which side note...Lone Star College - Montgomery is beautiful and I am VERY impressed with the whole Lone Star College system. We split into groups and used our new GPS to go geocaching. It was so much fun. There are geocaching points all over and Frankie and I have plans to go find some this summer. I would like to let you know that even if you don't have a hand held GPS you can still do something similar called letterboxing. Our family showed us this when we went to Connecticut.

In the afternoons we heard talks on many different aspects of surveying. They do so much more than stand on the side of the road! :) This profession even caught my interest...

If you would like to read more about the conference you can from the Conroe Courier or Lone Star College. If you have any question about land surveying feel free to ask me. If I don't know the answer, I now know MANY people who can answer them.