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The Pedagogy Of The Surveying Laboratory

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Instrumentation and Controls Laboratories

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1252.1 - 13.1252.11



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Paper Authors


Philip Brach University of the District of Columbia

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Distinguished Professor (Emeritus), former Dean, Past President, DCSPE, current DCSPE Representative to the NSPE House of Delegates. Currently teaching and doing research in the Civil Engineering and STEM programs at UDC. He is the State Coordinator for DC MATHCOUNTS. Has over 45 years of teaching, engineering practice and administration experience.

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Ahmet Zeytinci University of the District of Columbia

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Professor of Civil Engineering, former Chairman of the Department of Engineering, Architecture and Aerospace Technology at UDC. He is a Past President of DCSPE and is currently the Director of the Civil Engineering Program and the Chairman of the Professional Engineers in Higher Education (PEHE) of DCSPE. Over 30 years of teaching and engineering practice in Europe, Japan and the US.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



Surveying and surveying laboratory (field work) fifty years ago were standard fair for most engineering programs in all disciplines. Today, in the 21st Century, surveying is no longer an integral part of all engineering programs; in fact, it is not even a standard part of many Civil Engineering (CE) programs. Plane surveying, the determination of the location of points on or near the surface of the earth, is rapidly becoming a lost art in the civil engineering curriculum. This paper is not an attempt to resurrect surveying in the modern CE curriculum. It looks at surveying field work in an historical perspective; to highlight changes in the art of surveying and how they have impacted both the teaching and practice of surveying, and to point out conceptual features of surveying field work and show how selected activities were particularly suited to teaching fundamental concepts applicable to a wide range of engineering disciplines. There is a bit of nostalgia in the paper, but most important there is the identification of key skills that once were the prerogative of the surveying lab and suggestions for how these skills might be brought into the CE curriculum again and perhaps serve a useful role in other engineering disciplines as well.

A few of the topics that will be explored in this paper include: (1) the relationship between the precision of instruments used in measurement and the nature of the methods used to adjust values that are the result of random errors; (2) how methods have changed over time due to technological advances in equipment; and (3) how techniques used for long distance surveys such as triangulation, trilateration and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have changed or been modified over time and why.

A major focus of the paper is to “separate the chaff from the wheat,” that is, to separate what is fundamental and not subject to change over time from what is transient and temporal, with the objective of designing a modern state-of-the-art laboratory experience.


The history of surveying instruments and their applications dates back to early Egypt. A review of the literature on the history of surveying instruments used for boundary location and the construction of civil works such as roads, bridges, buildings, etc., did not reveal any observations on the relationship of the precision and accuracy of state-of-the-art instruments and the techniques used for the adjustment of observed measurements. Perhaps it was just the result of innate judgment that resulted in the methods for adjusting measurements to agree with known physical relationships. For example, it is obvious that the sum of the interior angles in a circle as shown in Figure-1 must be equal to 360º.

Σ (A + B + C + D) = 360º A

Fig 1 D B Plane Geometry of a Circle C (Defined relationship)


Brach, P., & Zeytinci, A. (2008, June), The Pedagogy Of The Surveying Laboratory Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3465

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