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Live! Inside a Civil Engineering Technology surveying lab

In this series, we provide a closer look at hands-on learning during COVID-19.While COVID-19 means online learning for most Tidewater Community College students, some are in the classroom for hands-on training. In fact, more than 400 sections of classes in interior design, automotive, health professions, welding, veterinary technology, culinary arts, visual arts, electronics technology and other programs have on-campus components. 

A closer look at a geomatics lab

Geomatics requires working with Earth-based data or spatial data and is a requirement for the associate degree in Civil Engineering Technology and certificates in Construction Project Management and Land Surveying. Surveyors work with spatial data regularly. TCC’s geomatics lab (CIV 175) offers a hands-on opportunity to practice with instrumentation tools, which includes automatic levels and total stations.

Geomatics lab is conducted in the great outdoors with all of the equipment set up prior to class time. Students work in groups of two separated by a distance of 100 feet or more.  They practice gathering field data with both traditional and modern instruments.

“Surveying is a fundamental course and the foundation for any kind of construction,” said Chris Cartwright, head of TCC’s Civil Engineering Technology program.

Students use the same equipment that engineers and surveyors work with every day to make measurements. 

“We are fortunate to keep our group size to only two students per group maximizing the time each student has to practice the techniques necessary to operate the equipment,” Cartwright said.

Student voices

“Being outdoors and the hands-on practice of what we’d be doing in the real world is the best part about being back on campus,” said Mary Otterbourg.

“I enjoy the hands on work. It’s hard to do everything online, so doing this in person makes it much better,” said Marcus Rolle. “My favorite part about this class is enhancing my skills. I do this in the Navy, so taking this class will help me use this skill in the civilian world.”

“I love the surveying, getting to learn and use the instruments,” said Kellie Burchfield.

About the professor

Cartwright started as an adjunct faculty member at TCC in the spring 1999 and transitioned to full time position in August 2002. The TCC alumnus transferred to Virginia Tech to earn his bachelor’s in civil engineering. He holds a master’s from Arkansas University in environmental engineering.

Good to Know

If students can’t make it to campus for lab, they can pursue another option in the fall that allows them to work with a licensed land surveyor as a mentor to compete all requirements.

 More information

To learn more about TCC’s Civil Engineering Technology program, email Cartwright at or or call 757-822-1111.