Seeing a Point Cloud for the First Time

Do you remember the excitement you felt when you saw a point cloud for the first time? How you felt? The ideas that rushed into your head on what it could be used for?

Sometimes, I think some of us get so involved working with LIDAR data that we forget how much of a privilege it is and that it is a very small community that is aware of its existence (although cameo appearances by scanning in TV shows occasionally happens).

One of the most important things in the geospatial community that we can do is outreach activities to inform youth about potential careers. It is important for them to see why we are passionate about what we do (and often we like it so much, we dont call it work!). A recent article in LiDAR News, Career Paths, by Chris Zmijewski discusses some of the challenges with enrollments in geospatial programs (and the availability of those programs exposing students to new 3D technologies).

The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program at Oregon State University (OSU) works to inform underrepresented students regarding science and engineering education. Recently, the LSAMP program held a week long Summer Transportation Institute. As part of this program, approximately twenty high school students were able to get hands on exposure to geomatics technologies including 3D laser scanning, GPS, total stations, and digital levels. Current geomatics graduate students at OSU performed the equipment demonstrations and let the high school students complete a small exercise with each type of equipment. It is always very exciting to see their faces light up when they see a point cloud for the first time.

We had the opportunity to discuss career options within geomatics and areas they should focus on in school to prepare for such careers. We also had a chance to talk about why we chose the careers we did and what we enjoy about it.

I wish I could know whether any of the students will choose to pursue a career in geomatics. Fortunately, I will have a chance to follow up with those who go to Oregon State! However, even if they go another route, I think that opportunities like these are something they wont forget in their lifetimes and will help them have an appreciation for geomatics. I find that many times when talking to younger kids, they are unaware of potential jobs in geomatics and engineering. (Let alone laser scanning!). If you dont believe me, just ask someone if they have heard of geomatics before! I would encourage all professionals to help with such outreach events. It definitely helps keep an old guy like me young. It also helps me remember what it was like to see a point cloud for the first time.


Special thanks to Leica Geosystems and David Evans and Associates for providing OSU with equipment and software to enable us to do outreach activities like these.