Geomatics and Laser Scanning at Oregon State University

Geomatics is part of the School of Civil and Construction Engineering (CCE) at Oregon State University (OSU). There are over 1,000 students in the CCE program. One advantage to this arrangement is students can obtain dual licensure in engineering and surveying, which provides them with additional career opportunities. Recently in 2009, Oregon State University formed a strategic partnership with Leica Geosystems and David Evans and Associates, which has been critical to our growth. While this partnership had several goals, the focus was to excite students about opportunities in geomatics to ensure strong growth of the profession. A recent article in Professional Surveyor Magazine discusses more about this partnership and how it has contributed to OSUs geomatics program. The partnership has provided OSU students with state of the art equipment and software, which has provided several new opportunities for student learning. In addition, Leica Geosystems and David Evans and Associates provide OSU faculty and students with training and resources to enable them to update teaching strategies to represent the latest workflows.

As part of the guidance from this partnership, we have made several modifications to our curriculum to incorporate new geomatics technologies to recruit more students to the geomatics profession. In our freshman engineering orientation class, we have added leveling and Google Sketch-up lab exercises. We have also added Building Information Modeling (BIM) concepts to our sophomore Engineering Communications classes. These help ensure we introduce geomatics early to engineering students. This Spring, we will offer a BIM class, a part of which will discuss 3D laser scanning to BIM workflows. We have developed a new course in Digital Terrain Modeling where students perform laser scan acquisition, processing, modeling, and analysis. We are also introducing laser scanning into senior capstone projects for students in the Computer Science department. We have also developed a yearly workshop on the basics of 3D laser scanning as part of our workshop series, which are taught for practicing professionals.

An important part of our graduate program (both MS and PhD) involves research using laser scanning. We have performed laser scanning work on international reconnaissance teams following the recent Samoan and Chilean earthquakes and tsunamis. OSU also has a state-of-of the art wave-lab facility where scientists can build scale models to study tsunami waves. We have performed laser scanning for several projects and in developing a model of one of the wave basins. We are also currently working on an OTREC/ODOT sponsored project using laser scanning to perform real time change detection on landslides and erosion, including sites along a highway realignment project and sites along the Oregon Coast. Several graduate students in the geosciences and forestry departments at OSU have been working with airborne LIDAR as part of their research projects. We are also actively pursuing research in sensor calibration and survey optimization strategies.

To reach a larger audience, we have performed several outreach efforts to local organizations. Each fall, we have a Beaver Open House where we invite high school students to learn about opportunities in university education. We have taken this opportunity to demonstrate Total Stations and laser scanners. We are currently helping a local Boy Scout Troup complete their surveying merit badge. Although not a requirement of the merit badge, we demonstrated scanning and discussed its implications for the surveying industry. Our ACSM student chapter has also invited guest speakers to their meetings to discuss laser scanning. They are currently preparing to do a service project, which they will use laser scanning for cultural heritage applications. Students have been very excited and engaged with the new technology.

These are some of the exciting opportunities happening in Geomatics at OSU. I will discuss these some of these individually in more detail in future articles and discuss additional events related to laser scanning in education and research.

Michael J. Olsen is an Assistant Professor for the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University.

About the Author

Michael Olsen

Michael Olsen ... Michael is an Assistant Professor of Geomatics in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. He chairs the ASCE Geomatics Spatial Data Applications Committee and is on the editorial board for the ASCE Journal of Surveying Engineering. He has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. He has also worked as an Engineer in Training for West Valley City. His current areas of research include terrestrial laser scanning, remote sensing, GIS, geotechnical engineering, earthquake engineering, hazard mitigation, and 3D visualization. He teaches geomatics and geotechnical engineering courses at OSU where he has developed new, ground-breaking courses in Digital Terrain Modeling course and Building Information Modeling. Recent projects he has been involved with include: earthquake reconnaissance (following the American Samoa and Chile earthquakes and tsunamis), landslide analysis for the US 20 realignment, seacliff erosion mapping using LIDAR for San Diego County and Oregon, liquefaction hazard mapping for Utah, and modeling and studying historical buildings such as the Palazzo Medici and Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy.
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