Point of Beginning

Letters

September 1, 2005
Readers respond to June and July "Editor's Points" and "The GPS Observer."

Editor's Points
July 2005

I just finished reading your editor's points in the July edition and felt that I needed to respond to the last paragraph asking for input from surveyors. As far as a national licensure of certified photogrammetrists, I feel that is beyond my expertise of being a professional surveyor and is a totally separate field [that] should be governed by MAPPS and USGS as stated in your opening paragraph. However, I do feel strongly that the setting of geodetic control should be done by a professional surveyor, especially if a specific mapping project is tied to centerline right of way or boundary lines.

Mike Hudik, PS
Ohio


Editor's Points
June 2005

Your editorial prompted me to go back to your March 2005 issue and again look at Matthew Mitchell's article on the lack of professionalism. Your decision to publish it was a correct one. We do not and should not want to live in a vacuum.

It may be the proverbial nature of the beast that surveyors have a traditional tendency to be individualistic and to live isolated-not only in the woods like Henry David Thoreau (Walden) but also in urban environments. The advent of computers, websites, and E-mail may have increased this unfortunate trend.

It is not surprising that a young student would find some surveyors' lack of professionalism "troubling." He is correct to realize that his concerns have neither come up for the first time nor will they be the last. As long as I can remember, and that is a very long time, responsible and professional surveyors of ACSM have lamented, debated and tried to solve our perpetual dilemma. It is surprising, however, that a student from a Michigan university (Ferris State) would sound the alarm. Isn't Michigan one of the few states, if not the first, which has made formal education for surveyor's licenses mandatory?

In the past, the debate over formal education vs. apprenticeship was often intertwined with the question whether or not surveyors were also civil engineers and vice versa (read my paper "Surveyor vs. Engineer - No Contest" in Surveying and Mapping, ACSM, March 1976). The roots for the confusion may well be found in America's unique development and history. Canals, dams and railroads were built by surveyors who then were also called civil engineers. "[A] large segment of engineers in the mid-1800s had little or no formal education, acquiring their technical knowledge through self-study and apprenticeship, often as axmen or rodmen in surveying parties. The roads, canals, railroads on which they worked served as their "˜universities,'" wrote ASCE Executive Director William H. Wisely ("The American Civil Engineer 1852-1974," ASCE, 1974). It may have been the respected surveying educator of NYC, former ACSM President Brother B. Austin Barry, who traced the origin of apprenticed land surveyors without formal education to the time when the busy chief surveyor got hung up with design and had his rodmen take over, since "they already knew where the stakes were in the ground."

Leading ACSM surveyors, such as Walter Dix, Curtis Brown, Arthur McNair, Brother Barry and others have urged a formal education for surveyors since the 1960s. And some progress has been made. The continued advancement of high-tech sophistication will make a formal education unavoidable.

Courses in ethics and professionalism can also be taught. Although education is no guarantee of professional conduct, education should, at least, open one's mind. Integrity and quality of service will continue to be a matter of personal habit-not to forget enforcement of regulations. Lawyers, doctors and accountants all practice under the threat of disbarment, medical supervision and rescission of license.

Letter writer Michael Tock (POB 6/05) unfortunately has never worked for a truly professional surveyor. Which, in and of itself may be a solid argument against apprenticeship only. Letter writer Reid Church (POB 6/05) may be wrong when he assumes that other disciplines are "perceived to be more professional because they do not get their hands dirty." Think of PhD-degreed natural scientists, biologists, explorers and environmentalists. They do get their hands dirty and they are well-respected. But most of them do distinguish between field and office attire, as the occasion may require.

Of course, it takes a younger man like Matthew Mitchell to find both a "simple" and a radical solution: One, "to convince the public" of our value, and two, to get "rid" of obstinate, uneducated surveyors. Both are easier said than done. Youth is rarely blessed with patience and that may be a good thing, especially in an ancient profession as reluctant to change as ours. We should not forget, however, that all across the country we find some exceptional individuals who through determination and self-study are a credit to our profession. They are, however, not the norm-and times are a-changin'. Keep pushing!

Gunther Greulich, PLS, PE
via E-mail


The GPS Observer
June 2005

In your June article you stated that it is always good practice to take a second shot to points during the course of an RTK GPS survey. My question relates to something that you didn't cover: once you get back into the office, would the final position of each point located with RTK be the simple mean of the two sets of coordinates for a given point? In other words, if one were to develop the mean in a CADD drawing, one could simply create a line by inversing between the two shots and then (given that the line was very short) select the midpoint of that line as the final, averaged position for the point. Correct?

R. Lee Hixson, LS
California


Columnist Dr. James P. Reilly responds:

You are correct. I said double occupation is a good practice but didn't say anything about the two different coordinates for each point observed twice. The coordinate differences should be small, a few centimeters at most. Definitely take the mean of the two coordinates. If the CADD program allows you to inverse between the two positions and select the midpoint of that line, that's the way to go.

The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB. Send your thoughts to the editor at brownl@bnpmedia.com.