I will never forget the day that I was working on a rather prestigious assignment in Washington DC. It was one of those moments where you suddenly realize where you are, standing in a location that so very few people have had the privilege to be. You cant help it, your mind begins to drift and visualize the past; all of the amazing people and historic decisions and events that had taken place where I was standing and working. A period of reflection in your life when you joyfully ask yourself, how did I get here and how was I given the opportunity to work on this amazing project. I couldn’t help myself and texted my children, I really do have the best job in the whole world!
So the question arises, how did I arrive in this profession? How did I become involved with 3-D imaging? Like most individuals currently involved in the 3D laser scanning industry, my background and education originated in the survey and geomatics field. Working over the past 30 or more years for a number of small and large survey / engineering firms, I was extremely fortunate to be working for a company that had the vision to invest in this technology in the very early stages of development. Those were the days of countless hours of self-education and personal development. There were no classes or courses in the beginning. Our early education and introduction to lidar was through countless phone calls and requests to service providers, representatives, and ultimately establishing a network of colleagues to share experiences of lessons learned. Which instrument to buy? What software works best, and whats the newest and latest in development to be released on the market to aid in our collection and processing of data. In the early days there were no conferences like SPAR and RAPID, or articles and publications like LiDAR News. We certainly have come a long way! Or have we..
This years SPAR conference this past April in Houston was the largest to date, close to 900 hundred attendees, and this years upcoming SPAR International Conference is well on its way to being the most successful 3D imaging conference in Europe to date. Serving on the advisory and educational committee for SPAR, I have had the privilege of reviewing the papers and presentation materials submitted to the conference for proposed presentations. At SPAR we have always been enthused and intrigued with the level of professionals in this industry and their willingness to come forward and speak about the advances and new directions of 3D imaging. All should be applauded in their efforts and passion to further educate and advance the industry of 3D Technology.
The SPAR Advisory committee every year sponsors a session entitled Boot Camp. A session originally conceived as an introductory class for those individuals who know nothing about 3-D laser scanning. A class where one could come and hear from some of the leading figures in the industry, the myriad of lessons learned and overview of how a person gets involved with this type of technology and industry. The 1st boot camp classes were quite successful. But over the past couple of years there has been a noticeable change. Not in attendance, but in how many attendees were actually new to the industry. We were beginning to see the same individuals attending year after year. Where were all the young attendees, and quite frankly the future of our industry?
We have heard so many times that this three-dimensional technology is something that the younger generation is going to quickly gravitate to. They are already adept in 3-D. They all understand the concept of maneuvering around within a 3-dimensional environment. They grew up playing in it, watching it and wanting more.
So the question is, where does our younger generation turn to educate themselves and become a part of this 3-D industry? Timely discussion as we witness so many seniors graduating from high school this month in search of career paths. Where would you direct or advise a senior graduating today on how to break into this new and upcoming 3-dimensional industry.
For this article I asked my assistant to go online and find schools throughout the United States that have programs or classes related to 3-D laser scanning in particular. The search was rather disturbing. The hits related to laser scanning classes or programs were very limited. There were a number of service providers offering sessions on the use of their instrumentation and software, and we did find a few smaller firms that will provide individual training for existing businesses, but we were looking for more formal education directed towards a young student just entering college.
Some of the major schools and institutions throughout the states that have strong Survey and Geomatics programs periodically offer one or two classes on laser scanning.
Oregon State University has a developing program within their Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering Management Programs that are exposing their students to laser scanning and point cloud data. They have a Geomatics focus group. Students in their program are required to take 16 hours of surveying courses. They are then eligible to take the Fundamentals of Surveying Exam upon graduation, thus producing students at the undergraduate level that during their early years of study will have had some exposure and understanding of Lidar data.Within the Oregon State Universities CE department, they are offering 2 courses directly related to LIDAR3D laser scanning. This is certainly a start in the right direction.
Oregon State Universitys forestry department is currently developing a course called Forestry Geomatics, which will include 1-2 weeks working with LiDAR – this also very encouraging.
A few other schools in the US that have courses related to LIDAR 3-D laser scanning are the University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Houston and Penn State University. There are more we are sure, but thats the point of this article.
Several articles have addressed surveying education, the current limitations and the importance of surveying education, in particular the need for more rigorous education to allow engineers and surveyors to analyze and work with 3 – dimensional data. Enrollments in Geomatics programs are low, funding and budgets substantially cut, so its understandable that educational institutions have been slow to address the challenge of effectively utilizing new, emerging technologies such as 3-D laser scanning in their programs. As such, fewer students have been entering into geospatial fields, and those that do, may not receive enough exposure to these new technologies and/or a strong enough theoretical background to properly prepare for careers in the rapidly evolving 3-D industry.
There are encouraging developments. Many generous companies and individuals throughout the country have stepped up and recognized the importance for promoting and assisting the advancement of 3-D technologies.
Each academic session, Haag Engineering loans its personnel and laser scanning equipment to the survey classes at New Jersey Gloucester County Community College. Skilled laser scanning professionals work closely with the survey students to expose and instruct them on the basics of data collection and processing. The instructor, Peter Burgess PLS, is currently writing a more formal lesson plan into the schools Survey and Geomatics curriculum. Haag is also in the process of establishing a program within the Pennsylvania, Bucks County High School Technical program for this up coming school year.
Michael J.Olsen, Ph.D., M.ASCE at Oregon State University, announced a very exciting partnership with Leica Geosystems and David Evans and Associates, expanding OSUs geomatics program. They have provided us with tremendous resources in terms of equipment and software. I think that is one of the keys to helping geomatics programs grow.
Its time to provide acknowledgement and support to those institutions, firms companies and individuals who are supporting and donating their time and dollars to support a new and developing technology. Look for more to follow on this topic.