The Expanding Geomatics Program at OSU: A Students Perspective

What is the draw?
As a graduate student at Oregon State University – OSU, who is relatively new to the field of Geomatics, there are several key things that have really impressed me. The availability of powerful software and high-tech hardware platforms are enhancing an essential, but somewhat ponderous discipline with modern, rich new tool sets. These expanded capabilities present a vista of cross-discipline applications in engineering, business, and decision-making policies. It was the combination of these two elements that made the Oregon State University Geomatics Engineering program so attractive to me.

Students participating in OSUs Geomatics program are provided access to all of the latest surveying equipment thanks to a partnership between OSU, Leica Geosystems, and David Evans and Associates, Inc. (DEA). This equipment includes robotic total stations, GNSS receivers, digital levels, etc. Thanks to Oregon Department of Transportations (ODOT) Geometronics Unit, GPS users have the ability to tap into Oregons real-time GPS network. OSU students also have the capability to establish GPS radio base stations for remote field work. Students in this program are also fortunate to be among the few in the country with access to a modern 3D laser scanner. It is highly motivating as a student to see academia and industry displaying such an interest in future students and graduates that they choose to invest heavily to train them on the latest technology.

Behind all of this hardware lies a complete suite of software to power it. All engineering students have access to various 3D CAD (e.g. Autodesk Civil 3D, AutoCAD), and BIM (e.g. Revit) programs. Leica Geosystems has generously provided licenses for Leica GeoOffice for processing total station and GPS data and Leica Cyclone for processing 3D laser scan data. These powerful software packages are already incorporated into several classes and research projects. Maptek I-Site has also provided licenses for Maptek I-Site Studio 3.4 for student research projects. Riegls Riscan Pro is also available for student research.

In order to instruct students in the use of the Geomatics program equipment and software the school has adopted a practical, hands-on approach. In the Surveying Theory course, students get extensive hands-on use of total stations and digital levels in the field, as well as an introduction to GPS. A relatively new course, Digital Terrain Modeling, was created to introduce the fundamentals of laser scanning, programming, 3-D data processing, and data management. Whenever possible, lectures are augmented by industry speakers, hands-on demonstrations, and plenty of fieldwork where students collect data themselves for use in the course. Regrettably, it is not possible to discuss all of OSUs available offerings in this short perspective, but there are an increasing number of Geomatics courses, particularly in the area of modern data acquisition techniques.

Industry involvement has not ended with the donation of equipment. Representatives from DEA have visited campus on multiple occasions over the last eight months to provide hands on training for faculty and students in the use of the equipment and software. They also ensure that all of our equipment is up to date, that programs are running correctly, and rotate in new equipment for student use. Both DEA and ODOT representatives recently visited campus to demonstrate new laser scanners, different methods of target registration, and collect actual data for students to train on, bringing theory and practice together. It also served as a fantastic opportunity to pick the brains of individuals who have been working in the field for many years.

Research Opportunities
A principle philosophy in OSUs program is in the area of promoting student education and involvement. Instructors foster a welcoming environment and actively encourage students to shape and apply learned principles and tools to their own fields of interest. There are many opportunities available for both graduate and undergraduate level students to participate in. This is exactly how I came to join the program here at OSU. My adviser (Michael Olsen) helped me find an area that fit with my interests and academic background, provided training opportunities, and involved me in his research. My own ideas began to emerge and I soon found myself so entwined in the possibilities offered by Geomatics that I elected to pursue my Ph.D. in this program.

This is an exciting time in which to be a student at OSU. Traditional surveying methodology is being merged and expanded with rapid, continual technological advances into the growing field of Geomatics. This increase in functionality and efficiency promotes adoption of its use in a growing number of fields as a result. OSU has strategically positioned its program to become a dominant research and training environment. From a students perspective, OSU Geomatics is an exciting program with a bright future.