NWTC students place third at national land surveying competition

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Days away from receiving their degrees, one group of students in the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) Civil Engineering Technology program reflect on a comprehensive project that put their classroom learning to practical use.

Last month, the six students took third place at a national competition in which they shared their research comparing traditional surveying methods with modern technology.

"We used a drone to fly over and take pictures of a site. The site we did was Suamico Elementary School," said Justin Smith-Herter, a Civil Engineering Technology student.

"In our industry, drone technology is really skyrocketing as far as the uses. That's one of the reasons why the National Society of Professional Surveyors did this project," said Howard Herrild, survey instructor in the Civil Engineering Technology program.

The students gathered data points from the aerial photos taken with the drone to map out land features. The drone offered some advantages by providing a look into the courtyard without requiring anyone to enter the school; however, the students ran into other challenges with the technology.

"The site is partially wooded and aerophotography doesn't work through pine trees, really," said Herrild. "It can't get the ground features."

The group surveyed the same site using traditional methods and found that offered better data overall. They took their findings to Washington D.C. for the National Society of Professional Surveyors competition to present in front of other students from two-year and four-year colleges and universities across the country.

"I was really nervous the first time because none of us knew what to expect of course, because we wanted to do really well, and when you see everybody else go, because we went kind of toward the end of the day, and you're like, 'Oh man, some of these guys have really good presentations,'" said Smith-Herter.

NWTC placed third in the Associate Degree Division, earning a trophy and $500 used to help alleviate travel costs.

The students gave the survey data they collected at the elementary school to Howard-Suamico School District officials for future use in building and planning projects.