The Civil Engineering Geomatics Program at Oregon State University

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What is geomatics or geomatics engineering? As educators in this discipline, we often hear this question. According to Wikipedia, geomatics is given a very broad definition as "the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering of geographic information, or spatially referenced information." As further defined in Wikipedia, geomatics is a "relatively new scientific term" (note, it was only coined approximately 45 years ago), intended to "combine the words geodesy and geoinformatics. It includes the tools and techniques used in land surveying, remote sensing, cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), photogrammetry, geography and related forms of earth mapping."

We concur with this long list, and would like to add that geomatics is also vital to civil engineering. Nearly every civil engineering project involves some form of acquisition, analysis, use, or cataloging of spatial data. Hence, civil engineers would undoubtedly benefit from additional geomatics-related education. Soler (2010) emphasized that for many civil engineering projects, application of emerging geomatics methodologies is vital, and civil engineering departments should consider augmenting their curricula with courses covering state-of-the-art geomatics technologies. For a variety of reasons, most civil engineering programs in the United States offer few courses in geomatics. This is unfortunate, as exciting technologies that would assist engineers in their projects continue to emerge, including: robotic total stations, GNSS, lidar, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photogrammetry.

We are pleased to write that the School of Civil and Construction Engineering (CCE) at Oregon State University (OSU) is expanding its program by adding new faculty and course offerings in geomatics.

Geomatics at OSU
The School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University has been rapidly expanding its geomatics program over the last 5 years. OSU recognizes the need for more surveyors and geomatics professionals as well as civil and construction engineers who have competency with geospatial technology and data. We aim to provide our students with a holistic view of geomatics, not only within civil and construction engineering but also with those of other disciplines.

Our goal is to balance theory, practice, and technology as part of the educational experience. Students need a strong root in foundational principles so they can adapt to evolving technologies and know how to validate their work. They also need to develop problem solving skills. Most courses have a weekly fieldwork component so that students are able to use the technology, apply it to solve problems, and generate various geospatial products.

We are also able to leverage additional faculty and courses related to geospatial topics in various other departments across campus, including the geography and geology departments in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS), Forestry, and Agriculture.

Faculty Members
OSU has a world-class faculty who bring unique perspectives to courses. Current faculty members include:
Tracy Arras–Senior Instructor who teaches undergraduate GIS and CAD courses, amongst others. Her primary expertise includes application of GIS in water resources.
Daniel Gillins–an Assistant Professor and professional land surveyor with expertise in cadastral surveying, the U.S. Public Land Survey System, surveying with GNSS, adjustments of redundant survey measurements by least squares, and mapping of seismic hazards.
Michael Olsen–an Assistant Professor with expertise in terrestrial lidar and its use in analyzing various geohazards (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, liquefaction) and the resulting impacts on civil engineering infrastructure. He also develops algorithms for efficient lidar data processing and analysis.
Christopher Parrish–an Assistant Professor (starting in Fall 2014) with expertise in full-waveform lidar, topographic-bathymetric lidar, airborne multi- and hyperspectral imagery, total propagated uncertainty (TPU) modeling, and coastal applications.
Robert Schultz–a Professor with expertise in boundary law, property surveying, and photogrammetry. Dr. Schultz has been teaching at OSU for over 50 years and has recently received multiple prestigious surveying and teaching awards.

Equipment Resources
OSU has been fortunate to form a partnership with Leica Geosystems and David Evans and Associates. This partnership has provided OSU with new equipment that is often updated to ensure students are learning using current technology. Field equipment at OSU includes automatic levels (including digital), total stations (including robotic), GNSS/GPS survey-grade receivers and data collectors, a hexacopter for UAV photogrammetry, 3D laser scanners, and a structure from light scanner. The graduate lab contains high end processing and graphics workstations. It also includes a mini-CAVE (computer assisted virtual environment) system where students can work with point clouds in a virtual, 3D environment. Additional undergraduate computing labs are available for teaching purposes.

OSU also maintains a variety of geospatial software packages. Most notably, Leica Geosystems and Maptek provide licenses for Cyclone and I-Site Studio, both of which are used heavily by students in courses and research. Further, Leica Geosystems has also donated numerous educational licenses for Star*Net (a least squares adjustment program), and MicroSurvey CAD. OSU is also privileged to be an ESRI development center, which provides access to a variety of GIS resources. Finally, faculty and students also develop their own custom software for processing.

Undergraduate Program
Students enrolled in our program can receive a BS in Civil Engineering (CE) (ABETEAC accredited) or BS in Construction Engineering Management (CEM) (ACCE accredited).

OSU students in either the CE or CEM programs have a unique opportunity where they can sit for the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam in addition to the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam in Oregon upon graduation if they have taken 16 credit hours (quarter) of approved surveying courses. This puts graduates on a unique and desirable path to dual licensure as both a Professional Engineer and Professional Land Surveyor. Students with an interest in geomatics are highly encouraged and prepared to take and successfully pass both the FS and FE upon graduation.

Graduate Program
The graduate program at OSU is designed to support a wide range of geomatics students from land surveyors to geo-computation professionals. An important part of our vision is to enable students to obtain breadth in geomatics while they master depth in specific topic areas. Geomatics professionals need to have a diverse range of skills and abilities, as well as be able to communicate with practitioners in many fields. We strive to ensure graduate students not only have a work-ready knowledge of technology, but understand critical theoretical concepts. We aim to prepare our graduates to become leaders in advancing the geospatial profession.

There are 3 types of graduate degrees at OSU awarded within civil engineering programs. Students pursuing a graduate CE degree can select geomatics as their major or minor area for graduate studies. All credits mentioned below are according to a quarter-based system.
Masters of Engineering (MENG)– The MENG degree is a 1 to 1.5 year coursework- based degree requiring 45 quarter hours of credit.
Masters of Science (MS)–The MS degree is a 2 year degree that combines coursework (typically 36 credit hours) with research (typically 9 thesis or project credit hours). Students pursuing a MS degree are required to complete a project or thesis. The thesis typically consists of at least one manuscript that is worthy and ready for publication in a peerreviewed journal.
Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD). The PhD is a 3 to 4 year degree that is a combination of coursework and research (predominately focused on research). Students with a Master’s Degree can count most, if not all, of their credits towards the PhD degree. Because the degree is research focused, students identify and pursue a research topic and produce a dissertation. Typically, a dissertation comprises at least 3 manuscripts that are worthy and ready for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Students in a summer transportation class learning about surveying with total stations.

Table 1 lists some example thesis topics of recently graduates from our program as well as their current positions. Several graduate students have been fully funded (tuition + stipend) throughout their degrees with either a Graduate Teaching Assistantship or a Graduate Research Assistantship.

Geomatics graduate students are able to help support and challenge one another through various interactions throughout their degree. Aside from common courses, students regularly perform training sessions, hold meetings, discuss current research problems, and hold fun events.

Certificate Program(s)
In addition to the BS, MENG, MS, and PhD Degrees described above, students can enroll in geospatial courses for certificate programs concurrent with their degree. An example is the GIScience Certificate Program, which requires 27 undergraduate credit hours in GIS and geospatial related courses, or 19 graduate credits. Another geospatial certificate is currently being developed.

Course Offerings
Students in the CCE program are first introduced to geomatics in their very first course: CCE101 Freshman Orientation. This course introduces CE and CEM students to the sub-disciplines in CE and CEM. One week of the course is dedicated solely to geomatics. Students do a leveling exercise where they compare elevations to determine drainage patterns.

We offer several courses in geomatics, most of which are offered on an annual basis. Many of the graduate courses are interdisciplinary and have students from various departments across OSU, which provides a rich learning atmosphere. The majority of the courses include a lab component for hands-on learning. Please see the website for detailed course descriptions.

Additional GIS, Remote Sensing, spatial analysis, spatial statistics, and geodesy courses are available within other colleges. Many students also take courses within Computer Science. Further, most senior CE students use various geospatial tools and skills learned in previous courses in order to complete their capstone projects.

In addition to the current offerings, several new courses are planned starting in the 20142015 school year. These include:

CE 5XX Kinematic Positioning and Navigation–In this class, students will learn the technologies and techniques used to directly georeference survey data acquired from an aircraft or mobile platform. A primary focus is on GNSSaided Inertial Navigation Systems (INS). Important topics include: reference frames, dead-reckoning, inertial navigation, kinematic GNSS, Kalman filtering, and the sensor models used to establish geometric relationships between remote sensing data and the positions of objects on the earth’s surface. The course includes a final project in which students directly georeference imagery obtained from a small UAV to generate orthomosaics.

CE 5XX GPSGNSS Theory and Practice–In this class, students will learn the fundamental principles of GPS, types of GPS surveying and control network processing using OPUS Projects. The course provides students with opportunities to do Real-Time Kinematic (RTK), Post-Processed Kinematic (PPK), Rapid Static, Static, and Precise Point Positioning (PPP) GPS surveys. The students then will compare the results of each technique so they understand the capabilities and limitations of each and can make informed decisions regarding appropriate use.

Concluding Remarks
It’s ironic that geomatics educational opportunities are becoming rarer and harder to maintain despite an increasing reliance on geospatial technology throughout society. OSU Civil Engineering Geomatics is taking advantage of this by growing to provide unique opportunities to train the next generation of professionals. There are many exciting opportunities available to those who are interested in developing their skills and meeting the challenges of tomorrow.

Two future LiDAR News articles will be created to (1) provide more details on laser scanning in our curriculum and specific examples of courses and (2) current research projects at Oregon State University.

OSU gratefully acknowledges the support of Leica Geosystems, David Evans and Associates, Maptek I-Site, Jim Plasker, Eric HI and Janice Hoffman, OSU geomatics students and graduates, and many others who support our geomatics program.

Michael J. Olsen is the Inaugural Eric HI and Janice Hoffman Faculty Scholar in the Geomatics program in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. He currently serves as the Associate Editor for the Journal of Surveying Engineering and is the Vice-Chair for the ASCE Geomatics Division Executive Committee.
Daniel T. Gillins is a professional land surveyor and an assistant professor in the Geomatics program in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University.
Christopher Parrish will be joining the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering faculty and the Geomatics program this fall. Chris comes to OSU from NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey, where he has served as Lead Physical Scientist in the Remote Sensing Division.

A 3.968Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE