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NGS: Training Tomorrow's Surveyors

June 1, 2000
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Springbrook students learn GPS observations in their school parking lot.
Four years after its inception, a joint initiative between the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and ACSM continues to teach GPS techniques to students at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Md.

Last spring, six to 10 students in Springbrook’s “Information Technology in a Global Society” program positioned their football field using GPS and learned how to correct their GPS observations using a National Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS). With help from NGS staff, Springbrook students installed and positioned a survey control point on the school’s campus. The control point,”Springbrook,” will be a part of both Maryland’s High Accuracy Reference Network (HARN) and the National Federal Base Network. The project demonstrated the use of GPS for GIS applications.

“Seeing students get excited about applied science activities is great,” said Dave Zilkoski of NGS. “They’re obtaining a better understanding of what surveying and mapping is all about.”

Zilkoski said NGS hired a Springbrook student for a summer internship to aid in a GPS project and said more students will join next year.

Four student teams will be developed this year: a video team will document use of the equipment for future classes; a resource grade positioning team will map the football field and student parking lot (at the 30 cm to 1 m level); a precise positioning team will accurately map the football field and student parking lot at the 2 to 5 cm level; and an analysis team will compare the results between the resource grade and precise teams.

The student teams will use GPS real-time positioning of a vehicle to select a few parking spots and islands from the school parking lot and map an overlay with the car. “If we take a bad map, and scan and overlay it, it will show the importance of the overlay system,” Zilkoski said.

Springbrook is the only school currently utilizing the GIS/GPS program, but Zilkoski said other schools are on the horizon. “Some of the teachers we’re training today, like Jack Schuma at Springbrook, are helping to get other teachers involved.” Katherine J. Bender, Science Resource Teacher at Northwest High School in Germantown, Md., will be visiting Springbrook when NGS works with the students.

“The most valuable result of the program is having the students and teachers obtain an appreciation of what it really means to know where you are and where other things are relative to you. It’s no longer just a map,” Zilkoski said. “I think we’ll benefit even if these kids don’t go into surveying.”

Zilkoski said he believes the program will eventually become part of the United States K-12 system because more adults are getting interested in positioning. He says the program needs to be implemented in elementary school, reinforced in middle school, and then become part of high school and college classes for credit.

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