Colorado Spatial Reference Network Celebrates GPS Day

We celebrated GPS Day in Aurora, Colorado on June 9th, after NSPS Surveyors Week in March, because we wanted warm weather for a hands-on event. We weren’t disappointed! Our event took place on a beautiful Colorado day of clear skies and 93 degrees. The Colorado Spatial Reference Network (CSRN) represented the Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado for our second annual GPS Day held at Utah Park in Aurora (the park facilities were sponsored by the Aurora Survey and Parks Department).

This year we focused on the theme “Learn about the Professions from the Professionals.” Based on feedback from the excited attendees and volunteers, we believe we succeeded in enhancing and expanding the event from last year. We encompassed land surveying, GIS, and GPS abroad by presenting three separate activities: PLSS Section Course, Data Collection Course, and GPS Navigation Course (more on those below).
Attendees included students from the Westwood College Surveying program and the Metro State University GPS courses, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, geocaching groups, land surveyors, GIS professionals, and people interested in pursuing land surveying or GIS as careers. We had approximately 60 attendees throughout the day, from 10 am to 2 pm.

To divide the event into morning and afternoon sessions, we provided a picnic lunch, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. There were plenty of drinks, chips, and socializing on the menu (GeoCounsel, Inc. and Costco provided sponsorship for lunch).

Participants received:
  • completion cards for each activity, stamped by volunteers as they advanced through the courses,
  • silicone-support logo bracelets with “CSRN GPS DAY” embroidered on them,
  • pamphlets on NGS and GPS, provided by the NGS Colorado State Advisor, and
  • pamphlets on the TRIG Star program and land surveying, provided by the City of Aurora Survey Department. 
Frontier Precision, Inc., Compass Tools, Inc. and Rocky Mountain Lasers were the GPS vendors and manufacturer representatives. Each had a booth with GPS equipment and actively engaged the attendees. They discussed GPS in general as well as the technologies and projects they have been involved in. They were an intricate part of our success with this event. Additional volunteers included land surveyors from The Mollenhaur Group and Titan Consulting, as well as those named in each course description below.

PLSS Section Course: We placed maps around this activity in a progression that illustrated how land for the United States was originally acquired from other countries and the year of the conveyance. Other maps included a standard township breakdown, a standard section breakdown, a United States base line and Principal Meridian map, and a township in the City of Aurora.

Our volunteers for this activity were surveyors from Merrick & Company and David Evans & Associates. To maintain our theme, they guided the participants through the maps, providing an explanation and narrative of each and its importance to land surveying. The participants enjoyed learning a bit of history of surveying from actual surveyors who clearly showed passion for the profession.

For the hands-on part of this activity, prior to the event we created a simulation on the ground approximately 50’ x 50’ (partially on a slope) using rope and stakes of an irregular section. We pre-established three of the four quarter corners. The attendees (with volunteer guidance and chaining pins, 100’ tapes, and a plumb bob) had to establish the missing quarter corner. Once all four quarter corners were known, the participants had to establish the center quarter corner. They were able to apply the information they learned through the map narratives on the ground, and, because the section was partially on a slope, the volunteers could illustrate and discuss the differences in horizontal and slope distances. This provided the participants with a fundamental foundation to land surveying and how land was originally subdivided.

Data Collection Course: Around this activity area we placed maps and narratives illustrating satellite constellations, GPS/GNSS receivers on the ground, and a definition of GPS. Surveyors from the Colorado Department of Transportation, Edward James Surveying, City of Aurora Survey Department, Frontier Precision (Trimble rep.), and Rocky Mountain Lasers (Topcon rep.) were the volunteers.

For the hands-on portion, we had spelled out the word GPS on the ground with 60D nails with orange whiskers. The letters were 20’ long and 10’ wide, spaced 5’ apart on 36” centers, established on the City of Aurora’s GPS network and on the Colorado State Plane Coordinate System. The participants operated GPS equipment on loan from our volunteers to observe the position of each nail. The data collectors (controllers) were set to the mapping screen, and each participant watched the word GPS spell out on his or her screen in real time. This allowed our volunteers to discuss RTK GPS, GPS basics, and coordinate geometry. They also discussed how data collection is a primary function of mapping in land surveying.

The participants had a fun time operating the equipment and seeing real-time results. They also enjoyed discussing the complexities of GPS and land surveying during a live demonstration (not hypothetical scenarios). This was a great introduction for the participants to survey technologies.  A GPS base station was also operating nearby where volunteers discussed the differences between a standard GPS-to-rover relationship/communication versus real-time networks.

GPS Navigation Course: We placed maps and narratives at the beginning of the navigation course, illustrating treasure hunting and the definitions of GIS and geocaching. Our volunteers were land surveyors and GIS professionals from Bohannan Huston, GeoCounsel, Inc., City of Aurora GIS Water Dept., Boundary Stone, LLC., and Compass Tools, Inc.

The hands-on objective was to find four stations throughout the venue. We had set up each of the four with a latitude and longitude position and a picture (attached to a post) of a specific surveying instrument. At the beginning of the course, the participants received a mapping-grade, hand-held GPS unit provided by Compass Tools, a card with the pre-determined lat/long positions printed on it, and a PLS or GIS professional as a guide. When participants found each station, they wrote the name of each of the survey equipment pieces pictured. During the activity the volunteer discussed the basics of GPS and how it’s used in surveying and GIS mapping. This is always a fun activity that everyone enjoys; participants did it either individually or in groups and had interesting conversations and comparisons of results.

Brian Dennis, PLS
CSRN President

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