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Letters to the Editor

July 1, 2004
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Readers respond to the May and March issues.

Professional Topography
May 2004

[I] just finished [reading the] article "Tool Chest" in POB. It couldn't have been more timely. We are just finishing a topo of a gravel pit with a 35-foot cut. I was given the job with the idea we could do the whole thing with GPS/RTK. But this was a perfect example of where a little pre-analysis revealed [that] one tool (RTK) would not be feasible for the entire job. Although a large portion of the site is wide open and very conducive to using GPS, due to the sheer vertical cut and unstable ground at the top, and for the safety of the crew, a total station was required. This [tool] would allow [the crew members] to use a zero rod height while standing a safe distance back from both the top and toe, and also provide more accurate data. Also, at the base of the cut, communication was lost and satellites were blocked, not to mention [that] multipath [existed]. And again, there was the safety issue of falling rocks, etc., trying to stand up against the base.

Yes, it is more pressure on the crew [members] to learn another tool, but that's part [of] what makes us a profession and what makes us surveyors-not just data collectors. Thank you for a great article.

Ken Paul, PLS

Washington

Offsets
March 2004

I applaud the comments offered by Mr. Dennis J. Mouland, PLS, in his recent article, "The Surveyor's New Clothes." I also am encouraged by the comments offered by others in our profession. It is about time that we started voicing concerns with the NCEES and our respective states concerning the matter of education. I myself have worked in the profession for 16 years and am an LSIT of six years. Because of educational requirements adopted by the state of Wyoming, I had to sit for my FLS exam in an adjacent state and am not recognized by my own state because the state in which I sat did not meet or exceed the educational requirements of Wyoming. If a state is going to require education, then one should be able to get that education without leaving the state. In Wyoming, when students go out of state for education, they generally do not return. With regard to licensure or the lack thereof in Wyoming, last year one PLS number was given to a resident and two were given via comity. Those are very discouraging numbers.

Like Mr. Root (see Letters to the Editor, POB, May 2004) I am struggling to work, raise a family and attend school at the age of 32. Because I cannot obtain the required education in Wyoming I find myself utilizing the extended campus courses at Metro State College of Denver, Colorado. This makes the process of completing my education somewhat slow. While I am an advocate of education, I find that there is too much experience to be gained in field situations that cannot be taught from a book. And many of today's programs are geared almost exclusively toward geodetics, calculations, adjustments and technology and not enough toward boundary retracement and law, the Public Land Survey System (where applicable) and the very roots of surveying. We are graduating "button pushers" today. I have worked with and trained individuals from schools that could push buttons all day long, but if the electronics failed [they] could not set up a theodolite and [use a] notebook. The education simply cannot just replace experience.

I recently sat for my PLS exam in a neighboring state that thought enough of my combination of experience and education to accept my application. I, too, was appalled at some of the questions on the exam. Many did not pertain to surveying and many others were too subjective. What bothers me the most, though, is the fact that I passed the national exam as I did the FLS six years ago, and Wyoming and a handful of other states will still not recognize it until my education is complete. I guess being able to pass the exam just does not mean as much as it used to. I could not have passed it if I did not have a four-year degree, could I?

Kenneth Schramm, LSIT
Wyoming

Editor's Note:
While each state statistic hasn't been collected, the executive director of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors has informed me that it has licensed 135 professional surveyors in the past five years; the degree requirement in Michigan has been in place since the early 1970s.


I was quite disappointed in reading [this] article. I felt the statements generalized the whole group of new professionals and contained unfounded false statements. The author discredits the positive efforts of those professionals who have undergone a rigorous degree program and criticizes the NCEES' testing procedure for licensure. The author states that the NCEES testing evaluates trivia that only a small percentage of the profession would encounter. Testing should, in my opinion, evaluate the spectrum of knowledge that makes up the profession, even if only a small percentage of those in the profession practice such activities. One contributing factor to his statement may be due to the lack of training that past generations of surveyors have had in those less commonly encountered practices of surveying. Without the proper training or experience in GIS, GPS, statistical analysis, astronomic observations, restoring lost corners and so forth, it would be unprofitable and possibly even unethical for a professional to perform these tasks. Surveying is a very broad subject. Considering all the new technology, evolving boundary law and the ever-changing land development and environmental regulations, the survey professional is certainly better off knowing more, [rather] than doing business as usual and shutting out changes.

"¦ The author states that the NCEES test demands the wrong answer to the exam questions and "the NCEES is on a not-so-subtle mission to make the test impossible to pass unless testers have a four-year degree." These statements suggest that what is taught in the four-year degree program is wrong! This is interesting since the basis of many subjects in my four-year degree program were founded on texts including Brown's Boundary Control and Legal Principals, Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location, Skelton on the Legal Elements of Boundaries and Adjacent Properties and other well-known textbooks. I would suggest those without a degree in surveying who are eligible to take the professional exam put down the geometry book and pick up one of these textbooks. The fact that those without a degree have an impossible time passing the test as the author suggests is a credit to what is taught in the degree program and proof that on-the-job training alone does not complete the knowledge necessary to become licensed. It is also a credit to the NCEES to formulate an exam that offers questions that are in stride with the fundamentals taught in a four-year surveying degree program.

"¦ The degree requirement does, as the author stated, leave many individuals ineligible for licensure consideration. I, too, had achieved the training requirement but was ineligible even with my engineering degree. But, considering how important obtaining licensure was and what it would do for my career, I completed the degree. I was amazed when I learned how much more there is to surveying and consider the time very well spent. The profession is in good hands and the educational requirement is a positive step for its future. Those who have accomplished this have done so out of their passion for the discipline, not to wrong others without a degree in surveying that have 20 years of practical experience. So, please put your clothes back on to hide your shame in condemning the good accomplishments of others and undermining the goal of the profession to improve by raising the standards for professional licensure that were so long overdue.

Joseph Mele, PLS, EIT
New Jersey

Erratum: The June Surveying GIS article, "Mobile GIS," contained an error. In the third paragraph, second line, the term "set up" should be "set out." We apologize for the error.

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