When the new Minnesota Vikings stadium was announced, it became the most expensive construction project in Minnesota history, at about $950 million. EVS, Inc. took an innovative approach and assembled a team of local small and disadvantaged businesses to perform 90 percent of the total civil engineering contract.
EVS was successful and is the civil engineer for the stadium project. So when the design survey and construction staking work was on the horizon, EVS brainstormed ideas to continue that innovative concept and apply it into the field with workforce training.
“We’re always looking for outreach opportunities, and we knew that Summit Academy OIC was a leader in training, so we approached them about teaching a class about surveying,” said Andy Kim of EVS. Summit is a nonprofit vocational training center that provides programs in construction to people residing in low-income neighborhoods. Its motto is “the best social service program in the world is a job.”
When approached with the survey class idea, Gary Courtney of Summit thought the class would be an excellent way for Summit students to learn about a field of work they normally wouldn’t have. “It was a great exposure project,” said Courtney. Along with Summit, Kim came up with the plan to take one week out of a 20-week carpentry class in progress at Summit this past August to teach the students about surveying. The group of 24 carpentry students took part in the five-day class that was hosted by Summit and taught by EVS employees.
Mortenson Construction, general contractor for the Minnesota multi-purpose stadium, was also eager to contribute to this project, and provided staff and equipment to help with the class.
The field of surveying is one that is very favorable for advancement, but many of Summit’s students were not familiar with the industry. By teaming up with EVS for this project, Summit was able to expose many of its students to a field of work about which they might not otherwise have known very much, if anything. And the advancement opportunities are promising: The students were happy to learn that, with the right training, they could work their way up, depending on their career desires. Tony, one of the class instructors, started as a carpenter with Mortenson, got into surveying and has since been working to advance to a supervisor position.
The goal of the Summit-EVS survey class was to train the students to support the crew chief as a survey technician. In addition to the actual training, EVS wanted to expose people to a new industry and show them the advancement opportunities.
The week-long class on Summit’s campus began with two days of classroom time. “For the most part,” said Michael Williams, EVS’ survey manager, “I think the students were interested in what we had to say. Williams did much of the classroom teaching, going over the history of surveying and explaining what it is and how it works. Dan Bowar, the Stadium Civil Project manager for EVS, also participated in the classroom training by explaining how survey relates to design and construction. “I was hoping we could show the students how important survey is to construction,” said Bowar. “Nothing would get built without a surveyor.”
For the remainder of the week, the students spent their time with hands-on learning and using the Trimble GPS and Total Stations. Students were informed that they would be preparing a topo survey of their campus and that their data would be used to generate a CAD drawing. Additionally, students would stake building corners in an adjacent field to simulate a future campus expansion project. Students broke up into several small groups, each led by a crew chief. The students practiced setting up the tripods and getting the pieces of equipment functioning properly together. After checking in with their control points, they worked to collect the necessary shots for the topo survey. The data was then compiled in a CAD file and plotted for students to get a real-world representation of the field work they had just completed.
“It was great to hear the students critique their field work and recognize what they did well and what needed improvement,” said Mike Koller of EVS.
Day 4 saw the students learning about construction staking. Using the example of where Summit would build an addition to the campus, the students staked the points loaded into their Trimble TSC3 data collectors. The students practiced this start to finish several times until they felt ready to perform without their crew chief. As a final wrap up, the students tested their knowledge and training by competing in groups of two in a staking competition. Divided into teams, the students plotted out three separate points per team. They were judged on the speed and accuracy of each stake placed in the ground.
On the final day of the class, the students visited the construction site of the Interchange Project. Located next to the home of the Minnesota Twins, the project, also known as Target Field Station, will serve as a central, multi-modal transportation hub and community gathering space in downtown Minneapolis. Students were able to walk the site and hear firsthand from the contractors about the construction process and how critical surveying is to a successful project.
“At the end of class, many of the carpentry students who ended up doing a week of surveying found it to be very interesting and enjoyed the class. Some of the students expressed a strong desire to get into the surveying profession. I count that as a success in what we were trying to accomplish,” Williams said. “The students learned how to operate the survey equipment very well, and they could make a successful crew.”
“We had over 10 different people [from EVS] involved in the project spending their time on it,” Kim said. “Collectively, we invested over 200 hours in the project and the results were worth it.”
Bowar said the best part of the project “...was watching the students understand how important survey is to construction. How this ties into the real world and [to] have them realize that it takes a lot of skill to use the equipment and understand how to take field information and bring it in for design, and then take the design and place it in the field for construction.”
Courtney enjoyed seeing the students really get into the staking competition: “That was lots of fun to see the students apply what they had learned in the class.”
With a new group of trained students, EVS is optimistic for a future together. EVS has plans to follow up with the students in the next few months. “This summer, when the bulk of the construction staking begins,” Kim said, “we hope to bring the students on to participate.”
Through this project, EVS was able to introduce surveying to a broader and more diverse audience, and Summit has asked EVS to teach the survey course again in the future.