Islander Students Overcome Real-World Issues to Win National Surveyor Competition

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Entering the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) Student Competition is no simple task in the easiest of times. This year, the competition was especially complicated due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this adversity, a team of five Islander students not only participated in the NSPS Student Competition but managed to take home the top prize.

The team’s project, “The Modernized National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) of 2022: What It Means for Texas,” has many real-world applications, according to team members. It highlights specific practice-based issues that surveyors in Texas will need to consider to efficiently use the new horizontal and vertical datums that will be included in the modernized 2022 NSRS. The Islander team consisted of Demetri Andreadis, Allison Brozusky, Kevin Michael, José Pilartes-Congo, and Heather Zavesky.

“Our findings can be used by professionals in our industry to enhance their understanding of the upcoming datums,” said Pilartes-Congo, a graduate research assistant who is working on a Master of Science in Geospatial Systems Engineering. “We briefly highlight the main changes on a national level and then shift the focus to changes that are expected in the state of Texas.”

The team worked on its project for seven months. It consisted of a report, a poster, and a presentation. Originally, the team was also supposed to engage in several field exercises; however, this plan was scrapped as the NSPS meeting shifted to a web-based experience.

“An easy understanding of the application of this study is in construction work,” said Zavesky, geographic information science senior. “Accurate heights or elevations are crucial not only when building one structure but to our nation's infrastructure. If everyone is using the same model, it’s easier to for the numbers to match up and be more accurate.”

The team began the competition by creating a rough draft of their project and presenting it to more than 100 professionals at a free continuing education course hosted by the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi earlier this year. Team members were then slated to travel to the National Geodetic Survey Testing and Training Center in Corbin, Virginia, and a conference center in Arlington, Virginia, to present their work. Unfortunately, the trip was canceled in response to the pandemic.

“Our team was definitely disappointed to have to cancel our travel plans,” said Michael, geographic information science senior. “Luckily, those in charge of hosting the competition were very quick to alter the competition to allow remote participation.”

Although competition plans had changed, the team was nevertheless determined to complete the project. As the NSPS became decentralized, the Islander team followed suit with its members now scattered across the country due to various state lockdowns and restrictions on travel. To continue its work, the team made use of remote meetings and shared documents. Their efforts were validated as they placed first in the student competition.

Brozusky said the most challenging aspect of remote participation was the inability to make the human connection that occurs during an in-person presentation.

“Participating remotely was an unexpected change to the competition but did not entirely take away from it,” Brozusky said. “Finding out that we won was something I was so stoked to hear. It’s such an honor and privilege to have been a part of this team this year. I cannot believe we placed 1st, and I am so proud of all of us for doing so.”

For Andreadis, a post-baccalaureate student who is working on a career change after graduating from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry six years ago, the experience convinced him that he is on the right track.

“It's never too late to find something you're passionate about and pursue it,” said Andreadis.“Before this competition and my subsequent internship at Steger Bizzell Engineering this summer, I really wasn't sure if I actually enjoyed surveying or just the idea of it. However, today I can confidently say surveying is the right field for me.” 

For information on the Geographic Information Science Student Organization, watch:

The team thanks the following sponsors:

  • Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science
  • Dark Seas Mapping Co.
  • Fenstermaker
  • Frontier Surveying Co.
  • H. Kuehlem Professional Surveyors- A Baseline Company
  • P.L.S.- Ron Kolacny
  • McGray & McGray
  • Native Survey Company
  • Ron Carroll Surveying
  • Topographic