Program tweaks strengthen annual ACSM gathering

Two University of Akron students calculate measurements taken during the NSPS Surveying Student Competition.

Despite competition from successful state society conferences, a rise in manufacturer-hosted user gatherings and fewer governmental agencies footing the bill for employees’ attendance, the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) along with the Land Surveyors Association of Washington (LSAW) welcomed 1,400-plus attendees and more than 60 exhibitors to its annual conference and technology exhibition held March 4-9 in Spokane, Wash.

Sponsored by ESRI, Trimble and Kuker-Ranken Inc., the conference included strategic planning efforts designed to work better for attendees and exhibitors. Exhibit hall hours included time slots after course offerings ended. And because ACSM joined with LSAW after the state society’s efforts had begun, the conference closed at week’s end instead of ACSM’s traditional middle-of-the-week schedule, which allowed everyone to get back to work as normal the following Monday.

Other tried-and-true details of ACSM conferences remained the same. The program, for example, included its usual well-rounded set of CEU/PDH-certified educational opportunities as well as social and special events and committee meetings. Workshop selections included hands-on CAD labs by Autodesk, hands-on GIS labs by ESRI, test prep courses and government-related software updates. Industry experts and favorites filled rooms with courses of interest, including real-time GPS networks, FEMA elevation certificates, conflict resolution, ACSM/ALTA Survey Standards, engineers’ and surveyors’ liability, expert witness testimony, law of easements and ethics.

While surveyor students of all ages attended these courses and more, the upcoming crop of measurers hit Spokane’s convention center grounds to participate in the 2008 NSPS Surveying Student Competition.

Students Take On Spokane

NSPS welcomed nine teams to its seventh annual Surveying Student Competition: St. Cloud State University, Southern Polytechnic State University, Troy University, University of Puerto Rico, Ferris State University, Michigan Tech, University of Akron, New Mexico State University and Oregon Institute of Technology. The 2008 contest required the student teams to submit a research paper involving a historically significant survey, preferably from the team’s state or region. The paper was to include background information about events leading up to the survey, the survey itself (including personnel, techniques and equipment used, etc.) and the subsequent significance of the survey (including relationships to modern boundaries, litigation, etc.). On the rolling grounds of the Spokane Convention Center, teams used rods, plumb bobs, compasses and link chains to calculate an area of five sides. As Akron student Samantha Brown, daughter of a surveyor, shared, “Getting slope here with a plumb is kind of difficult but we did OK. We got into a rhythm after a while.”

That rhythm paid off for Akron as the team who finished first place. They were followed by New Mexico State and Ferris State. Akron’s paper centered on the Greenville Treaty Line, the boundary through Ohio and Indiana measured in the late 1790s that separated white settlements from Indian villages and hunting grounds.

The subject of the 2009 competition research paper will be “Calculating Devices and Methods for Surveyors – Past to Present.” The era and devices covered are the choice of each team, which could prove to be interesting if one team targets modern equipment and another targets more traditional instrumentation. Will a team dare to conquer the software accompaniments of calculating devices?

In addition to the paper, teams will be required to prepare one 24 x 36-inch poster describing one of the calculating devices mentioned in their paper. The field exercise has not been determined, but it is probable that, with the flat land of Utah, it will involve some creative requirements not related to terrain. And unfortunately for many, next year’s competition will not include a costume prize.

A Survey of the Exhibit Hall

Notable products displayed in the exhibit hall included those from Altus Positioning Systems (, General CADD Products Inc. (www.GeneralCADD. com) and Topcon Positioning Systems (

Altus’ APS-3 GNSS receiver, available last month, features the AsteRx2 GPS/Glonass dual-frequency Septentrio receiver engine with 48 channels; an internal radio that configures the unit as a base or rover; integrated multiple communications options, including GSM/GPRS modem, digital spread spectrum or UHF radios, or optional external radio through a serial port; two hot-swappable Li-ion batteries with fuel gauge technology to display current battery status; a removable SD card for data logging; integrated Bluetooth through its Allegro CX controller and Carlson SurvCE allowing for wireless transfer to a PC; and open architecture and publicly available data interface protocols. The company believes the APS-3 will prove attractive to surveyors because of these features and its low introductory price.

As a newcomer to the survey marketplace, Altus CEO Neil Vancans is quick to note that the Altus team has been involved in high-precision receiver design since the advent of GPS product creation. The company should, he says, “fit in quickly into what has become a marketplace dominated by fewer and fewer suppliers. This is not a situation where the surveyor is getting a better set of choices. Altus aims to change that.”

General CADD Products Inc.’s Surveyor 3D software, an enhancement to its General CADD Pro Version 6.1 CADD program, received a lot of attention. “As a result of talking to many attendees, we’ve added even more capability to the Surveyor 3D edition, including more COGO features, traverse and sideshot adjustment, predetermined areas and direct intersections specified by point number,” says Carl Ransdell, the company’s CADD applications director. “Our niche, with the Surveyor 3D edition, [is] surveyors looking for a full-featured CAD product−we do not have a ‘lite’ version−with built-in COGO and contouring features that won’t break their software budget.”

Topcon demonstrated its IS Imaging Station with ImageMaster software. Scott Langbein, product marketing manager, said attendees were drawn to the IS unit because it’s “in the same price bracket as other robotics” but offers more functionality than a total station, namely laser scanning operations. The unit also operates on Wi-Fi, allowing operators to work remotely and transfer data to a laptop in real time. The IS’ software, ImageMaster, builds on the functionality of Topcon’s PI-3000 Image Modeler Software, which generates true 3D models with up to 0.4-millimeter accuracy. Its Photo Fieldbook creates a mosaic from 360-degree photo captures taken with the IS.

Tomorrow's ACSM

Overall, the 2008 ACSM conference continued to prove that there is strength in surveying. While the organization has its challenges ahead, it closed out a strong show. Looking to future years, Curt Sumner, LS, ACSM’s executive director, says he believes that “the entire community of organizations in the geospatial field needs to actively pursue joint conferencing” and points out that ACSM will be joining with the Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA) and the Arizona Professional Land Surveyors in 2010 in Phoenix. And, he says, next year’s conference partnered with the Western Federation of Professional Surveyors (WestFed), the Utah Council of Land Surveyors (UCLS) and the Montana Association of Registered Land Surveyors (MARLS), will include a few more concepts intended to strengthen the show.

Sidebar: Event

Event: ACSM/LSAW 2008
Location: Spokane, Wash.
Dates: March 4-9, 2008
Number of Attendees: 1,400+
Future Dates and Location: Feb. 19-24, 2009, Salt Lake City

Dan Murfey, POB publisher, congratulates first-place "Guess the Area" winner Bob Miller, PLS, of Quakertown, Pa.

Sidebar: Huh--No Chain Throwing?

This year, POB’s signature sponsored chain-throwing event was regrettably cancelled because no chain was available. However, a quickly substituted “Guess the Area” competition proved to be both successful and popular. The area outside POB’s booth was defined by six points, of which no two lines between them were parallel or of equal length. As POB Publisher Dan Murfey said, the three P’s were allowed in guessing the area: pacing, pencil and paper. Using a S8 Total Station from Trimble, our neighbors across the aisle, the official area was calculated at 127.889 square feet.

First place in the event went to Bob Miller, PLS, director of land surveying for Horizon Engineering in Quakertown, Pa. Miller’s guess of 125.8 square feet won him a $500 gift certificate to Allen Precision Equipment. The second and third guesses were 123.75 and 123.123. Due to the popularity of the event, there’s a good chance it will be continued in 2009. And we’re hoping someone will have a chain in Salt Lake City.

Special reporting by POB staff.