Point of Beginning

Letters

February 1, 2005
Readers respond to articles in the November and October 2004 issues.

Editor's Note
November 2004

I read the referenced article with interest, as I am one of the many "twilight year surveyors" who often takes our profession for granted. Having been raised in a family business that dealt with engineering, surveying and architecture, I have witnessed our professional evolution [since] the mid-1950s. As fascinating as that subject is, the future of our profession is far more intriguing.

Your article makes reference to the fact that many survey programs are being cancelled or dissolved into engineering curriculums. It is apparent this process will continue to evolve, even to the point that our profession may again face the licensed engineer who may have the opportunity to legally provide surveying services. This appears imminent due to the fact that in Texas [for example] the mean age of the RPLS is around 56 and the number of new licensed surveyors is around 40 each year. Not only is there a vast difference in retirement and replacement numbers, but there is a similar difference in engineering and surveying salary and benefits. With this latter difference, why would a college graduate pursue a profession that is not financially lucrative?

In our state's news [recently] it was noted that the University of Texas would implement another 5 percent increase in tuition. This type of increase each semester will continue to segregate the professions and also deter many students who wish to pursue additional college degrees. It appears that future students may be fortunate if they can financially receive an associate's degree in place of a [baccalaureate] degree from a university. Should this situation transpire, it appears that the various state organizations will have to reconsider the requirements for licensure. Perhaps an associate's degree with special training and testing will produce the surveyors for the next generation; otherwise, where will those candidates come from?

I agree with your statement regarding "bystander apathy, the belief that things will "˜just work themselves out.'" If our profession is to continue its successful journey we must first realize we have a problem, then we must address that problem. And to complete the course we must resolve the problem. Our professional future is in the balance, and as a concerned surveyor I would like to assist in protecting that interest.

George E. Griffith, RPLS
Texas and Louisiana


Savvy Solutions
November 2004

In the article "Savvy Solutions" in the November 2004 issue of POB, it is stated that a device dubbed V.depth "eliminates all the problems from the previous measure-down methods of entering confined spaces and utilizing the fiberglass rod and even the offset arm." Those of us with experience with laser-ranging devices know that measurements to pipes with any liquid flow (not unusual for sanitary sewers), will most likely return a reading from the waterline (most likely for gray water) or somewhere between the waterline and the invert. Just a caution to your readers before they go buy/build a gadget and hope the "magic" happens for them! I have never found an instrument that "eliminates all the problems." Nothing can beat a direct measurement-those who can relate still carry a 100-foot steel chain in the back of the truck "just in case."

Clifton Ogden
Alabama


Author Bruce Strack, PLS, responds:

In my article, I stated "V.depth eliminates all of the problems encountered from the previous measure-down methods of entering confined spaces and utilizing the fiberglass rod and even the offset arm." I believe V.depth does do that. There is no need to enter the confined space, nor utilize the rod or rod with offset arm. I did not, nor do, claim that any product, including V.depth, "eliminates all problems." I completely agree that nothing can beat a direct measurement. That is without question. However, this is not always possible in active sewers. Our field crews are well aware that if any pipes have flow, silt or debris existing in the invert, the measurement to the invert must be performed in a way to achieve the greatest accuracy. This is a procedural problem, not a product (or tool) problem. V.depth is still a very viable alternative to the norm. Our field crews and any of our valued clients who purchase V.depth understand that each and every sewer pipe may not be able to be shot directly.

Let me describe an alternative method if the invert of a pipe is not able to be measured directly due to blockage or flow. Our procedure is to obtain an elevation on the "top of the opening" of the pipe, not the top of the pipe. The laser dot is small and bright enough to accurately measure such a point. If the pipe size is known, then a simple subtraction of the pipe size is used to determine the invert elevation. If, however, the pipe size is unknown or needs to be verified, we will use V.depth to obtain the true plumb vertical distance to one side (left or right side of the opening of the pipe) or the other of the pipe. Again, due to the size and brightness of the laser dot, this is fairly easy to do by rotating V.depth up and down to establish the true farthest outside opening of the pipe. The other side of the pipe can then be measured to verify the first side's measurement. Once these elevations are established, the radius of the pipe is easily calculated and doubled to obtain the pipe size. Then again, a simple subtraction of the pipe size is used to determine the invert elevation. It has proven to be a very accurate way to develop the elevation we are truly looking for. Another possibility is to use the sliding format on the rim of the structure. If possible, V.depth can be slid left or right until the laser is touching the far side of the opening of the pipe. That spot is marked above the rim; the same procedure is used on the other side of the pipe, that spot is marked and the pipe size is measured along the rim, pavement, ground, etc.

As with any tool used in land surveying, the procedures in which you use that tool are critical. V.depth is no different. It is another tool that can be used to perform one of the most difficult aspects of in-place surveys. I assure you that each of our 25 field crews carry many other tools including a 100-foot steel tape. What V.depth offers is an alternative to dipping that steel tape into a manhole, or worse yet, sending a valued employee into that dangerous and confined space.

On Licensure
October 2004

I just finished reading the article by NCEES President-Elect Peterson, and I have a response. I recently received my LSIT [status] in the state of California and took the exam this past April. I believe that the majority of the exam is relevant, but there are many questions that in a "fundamentals" exam should be left for the PLS. Questions on business practice, profit-loss sheets, etc. are questions that a business owner should know. In the state of California, as I believe in all states, a person holding an LSIT [status] works under another's license. Therefore, [he] would not be the business owner. Such knowledge should be acquired as one gets [a] license, and this is part of the journeyman's (person's) experience. [Questions like] how many bits per byte, what kind of cable connects a printer to a computer, etc. [should be] left to IT professionals. Although technology is advancing in our profession to where the average office surveyor may develop macros in order to automate functions, or a field surveyor will develop applications to run a total station automatically, I still feel that these are issues to learn on the job and not on a "fundamentals" test.

I completely agree with President-Elect Peterson that the response [of PAKS questionnaires] from our profession is depressing. A job analyst may say that 30-plus percent is a good response, but 30 percent is failing in any other respect. You would never deliver data to a client if you had a 30 percent confidence rate. In California, the percentage of those passing the FLS [exam] the first time and sequential times is decreasing steadily. Something is wrong that the NCEES needs to address [not to mention] our profession as a whole. If people don't pass the FLS [exam], there is no hope for the PLS/RLS-unless you are an engineer [who] gets his PE [license] and then goes for his PLS or RLS [license].

There was so much controversy over calculator use [at the exam sites]. I saw more people using the banned HP48s, had the proctors review them, and [then] still [were] allowed to use them than I care to know. I went out and bought a new HP33S and did all my calculations "old school." I was taught at Santiago Canyon College (Orange, Calif.) to perform my survey calculations without the use of COGO cards or programs, and was not hindered by the enforced policies. I still hear more controversy regarding the calculator policy than [exam] content.

When I get my license, I hope I remember writing this letter, and that I will fill out and return my PAKS if I get sent one. I wish our profession would work less on fighting the system and rather fix the parts of the system that are broken. I wish our profession would attend professional meetings and conduct TRIG-STAR exams at the local high schools. Our profession is dwindling slowly in the number of licensed professionals. Someday soon it will begin to dwindle [faster]. We need to bring more people into our profession. Higher education and life experience are of equal value; one is not better than the other, but one [cannot make] a complete professional without both.

KC Offenberg, LSIT
via E-mail


It is my personal opinion that the latest LSIT exam is headed in the wrong direction. I work for a large municipal entity and several of my coworkers sat for the test in October. Every one of these people expressed to me that there were few survey questions and many business questions. They also mentioned that this test was very different than the previous one. When I took the LSIT exam in 1982, the majority of the questions were survey related. This seemed logical to me because I had only been in the survey field for a few years and was still learning basic surveying methods and procedures. I don't see the need for a surveyor with only two years' experience to know about flow charts, compound interest, contractual agreements, etc., before they have become proficient with the very complicated and technical equipment and software that we all work with today.

In today's society, it is necessary to study law and business to be a successful surveyor. I have no problem with the content of the LS exam, but I believe we should get back to the basics on the LSIT. There are too many "button-pushers" in our field. The "Solve" button is only a tool-not the answer. Field experience is necessary to teach the younger surveyors common sense and judgment.

David M. Rodgers, PLS
California


The End of An Era
October 2004

Your article [on the HP48] was astounding, poignant and very moving. [It] is the best article I [have] ever read on HP calculators. I too have loved HP calculators since 1970 when I persuaded my company to buy me an HP-9100A complete with printer, plotter and mark-sense card reader. That horrific expense of [more than] $5,000 (in 1970 dollars) was earned back completely in only three months through savings in labor. My employees no longer had to spend time calculating the test hours and minutes of the products we were reliability testing; they recorded the information onto the mark-sense cards with a pencil and zipped them through the reader (the cards, of course, not the pencil). And it all worked perfectly the first time. Funny thing, though: since the machine was so limited in program memory and working data storage and had only one (!) flag, I had to declare that noon was 1200 a.m. and that midnight was 1200 p.m. My employees thought I had lost my mind! There was no other way to make the program fit into the 9100A. It would have fit into the 9100B, of course, but I didn't have one then.

James F. Chumbley
via E-mail

Erratum: In the January 2005 issue article "On the Level," it is noted that Edward Kennedy is a former senator. In fact, Mr. Kennedy is currently active in the position as a Massachusetts senator. The author, Bob Foster, and the editors apologize for the error.