College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Annual Survey Camp Equips Students with Instrumentation Skills

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The Discipline of Land Surveying in the School of Engineering held its annual nine-day Survey Camp for 40 second- and third-year students during the winter vacation, hosting it for the first time at the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa’s (WESSA) uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve in Howick.

The camp is a component of the Land Surveying programme at UKZN, one of only two institutions in South Africa offering the qualification.

In Survey camp two, second-year students learned about conducting surveys using a total station, while in survey camp 3, third-year-level students were taught, among other things, about the use of a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) for various surveys.

Camp training involves various aspects of geomatics and enables students to produce map-orientated products. A large section of the work is computer-based but students also experiment with laser scanning, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and echo sounding equipment.

The curriculum covers more than can be done practically, however staff work to ensure that students become familiar with the principle instruments associated with the profession through camp activities relevant to industry projects.

The camps began with a reconnaissance tour and then each day was spent using the instrumentation and working on assessments, concluding with evening debriefing sessions by the students who detailed the activities they had undertaken, the challenges encountered and their plans for the following day.

A total of 10 demonstrators, a tutor, five staff members and an intern attended the camps.

Activities for survey camp two included beacon relocation, intersection, levelling, control traverse and detail surveys. Group work for the seven groups started just after arrival and concluded with assessments and a report submission. Assessments comprise individual assessment of practical competence with the total station, and a group report and individual portfolio accounting for activities.

The two groups in survey camp three conducted a hydrographic survey at Midmar Dam which involved profiling the underwater bed using a boat equipped with a GPS enabled echo sounder to measure GPS coordinates and the depth of the dam. Activities included photo control with GNSS, precise levelling, aerial triangulation, a tache with Trimble GPS, and laser scanning. Assessment involved individual practical competence using Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), with group reports and individual portfolios of activities undertaken submitted at the end of the camp.

‘We focus on whether a student is capable of using, setting up and conducting a survey in a limited period,’ said lecturer Mr Mwitwa Chilufya, who added that the nature of the qualification, including a professional registration, made such experience essential.

‘The camp has been extraordinary,’ said survey camp three participant Mr Lucky Msimango. ‘It’s been an extension of survey camp two but with more advanced instrumentation and it’s shown me that there’s more than one way we can do things in surveying and that technology makes things faster and much more efficient,’ said Msimango.

‘A lot of what we do we’ve learned in theory but now we actually understand its purpose and application,’ said Ms Zamokuhle Nene of survey camp two. ‘It’s been intense but enjoyable, and it’s rewarding to experience an environment like this away from campus,’ said Nene.

Words and photographs: Christine Cuénod