Wednesday, July 18, 2012

GIS Lab Expands Into New Space, Provides Additional Opportunities for Student Workers

Last August, the GIS lab moved from our former space in Goldstein Hall (730 square feet) to an off-campus location nearly three times its size, and we wondered how we would use all the new space. It’s hard to believe it now, but the new office originally had only two student work areas. That thought is a distant memory today. The office now has four student work rooms and houses our plotter and 42” flatbed scanner. It hasn’t even been a year yet, but we’re already finding ourselves in need of new student work stations.

The first part of the office to be converted was the back storage room. Shortly after graduation, work commenced to consolidate storage, prepare and paint the walls, add electrical outlets and network outlets, install a drop ceiling, and lay new carpeting. Just to make things even more interesting and chaotic, we also installed a 12000 BTU air conditioning unit and a backup generator for our server room.

With 22 students working at the lab over the summer, even that wasn’t enough. More recently, we converted what was once our conference room into another student work area. The lab continues to hire more students, but the only space left in our new office is the kitchen! How will we have enough work stations in the fall? Acquire more space, of course!

We’ve just begun expanding into the space next door to our existing office by signing a month to month lease to rent an additional 440 square feet. On July 13th we met some great folks at an undisclosed Maryland State agency about a new $200,000 grant that will require additional space acquisitions. Thanks to that grant (if we really get it), in addition to new space we just signed a lease on, we will need to house two more staff and eight students. We also have plans to create an employee lounge where students (and hey, staff too) can take their lunch breaks. And to be clear, no grant funds can be spent on the employee lounge though. The extra space will also give student employees more flexibility in choosing their work schedules once the academic year begins.

Student opinions of the new space are very positive. For most, the extra room more than makes up for the minor inconvenience of having to leave campus for work. Luis Machado ’13, who worked for the lab when we were still in Goldstein Hall, says, “The new office is a lot bigger. There’s a lot more space to get work done.”

Steve McFall ’16 wasn’t here to see the old office, but he likes the new one. “I’m excited to see how the expansion goes. I think it will give us plenty of room for everyone in the fall,” he says.

Erin Cooper ’14 likes the new office for a different reason. “I like that the new office is so open,” she says. “I think it’s good for everyone to be working together in the same place. It’s really helpful to have a bunch of coworkers around to get advice from if I run into problems with a project.”

We’re all really excited to see what the space will look like in a few months as we continue to grow and we will take pictures of the newest proposed space before we move as the that new space will have to be totally gutted before we move in. According to Stewart Bruce, GIS Program Coordinator, “I didn’t think we would so quickly fill up this space but at the rate we are going who knows what space we will need two years from now?”

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Washington College GIS Program Maps Easton, Maryland, Stormwater System

Washington College GIS Program Maps Easton, Maryland, Stormwater System

From left to right: Luis Machado, Joe Miloshevsky, and Sam Stanton

The GIS program has undertaken a project to map the stormwater system of the town of Easton Maryland. Initially the focus will be on the portions of the system in the Tanyard Branch Watershed. The Easton storm water team consists of Sam Stanton, heading up the project, Joe Miloshevsky, the student leading the field team and Luis Machado. The goal of the project is to map surface features using GPS and inspect and document accessible subsurface features. Data collected in the field will then be used to “connect the dots” to develop a comprehensive digital representation of the stormwater network. Easton, being a large old town, possesses a stormwater system that is made up of a widely varying collection of structures, which presents a unique challenge. The field team has thus far encountered everything from small hand laid brick structures to modern day precast concrete structures large enough to house a compact car. The system is actually a combination of multiple types of stormwater features from several eras and is much more complex than it first appears.

The system contains more than 1,300 manholes and almost 1,200 Inlets which will be mapped and analyzed. A GPS point is being taken for each feature using a Topcon GR-3 receiver and Topcon FC-250 Field Controller. This equipment has the capability to collect points with accuracies greater than 1 cm horizontal and 2 cm vertical. The team also inspects and documents the surface inlets, the pit itself, and any pipes leading to and from the feature. Measurements are taken for inlets and outlets utilizing 17 and 25 foot Crain measuring rods outfitted with a Pipe Mic. These measurements are taken relative to the rim elevation, as determined by the GPS measurement, and will then be used to calculate the invert elevations.

With these instruments and the ArcGIS mapping program, the team expects to construct a map of the storm water system during the course of the summer. CAD files of the stormwater system were provided by the town of Easton, and while not entirely accurate it has thus far served as a valuable reference. With this as a reference, and the team’s combined brain power, the expectation is to map and document the town’s stormwater system and gain a better understanding of how water moves through that system especially in urban areas, which is essential to understanding the Tanyard Branch Watershed.

This project is an excellent example of how the GIS lab is providing our students experiential learning opportunities using real world projects. Training for the field team on the Topcon GR-3 was conducted by Lukas Duruttya from DiCarlo Precision Instrument and this training is being used by the project team to develop in-house training materials for all of our student apprentices. During the summer all twenty students working in the lab will get a chance to spend a day in the field learning how to use this equipment and therefore advance their understanding of precision GPS.

Topcon GR-3 training with Lukas Duruttya