Commitment for the Future


"Hey, where’d this Autodesk water bottle and flashlight come from?” I yelled to my family.  I’d just gotten home from work, and there on the kitchen counter was a water bottle for a bicycle and a cool, metal flashlight with a built-in laser pointer, both with the Autodesk logo on them. I didn’t remember them from a trade show.

My nine-year-old son Nathan, a computer scientist at heart, told me that two parents who work for the software company spoke at his school’s career day.  Nathan spent a good part of that night downloading and then playing with a free AutoCAD program designed to infect kids with a passion for using their software.  Brilliant marketing!

A week later, my family joined tens of thousands of other families for the USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Walter E Washington Convention Center in D.C. Billed as “the largest celebration of science in the USA,” the event left us breathless.  With more than 3,000 interactive exhibits, 100 stage shows, and a book fair with 40 best-selling authors on hand, the festival is designed to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers “so they can help the USA blast off to a successful future.”  And boy did it ever!

“So, where’s surveying?” I pondered as we walked each crowded corridor.

Right about then we happened upon a booth hosted by Purdue University. “Oh goodie,” I thought.  Purdue, among other things, is renowned for its geomatics engineering program and surveying professionals.  Surely, we’d be represented here.

Nick Rambo, a PhD candidate responsible for helping to create his school’s exhibit, explained that Purdue had selected three areas that present the most viable job opportunities for young people: cyber security, food safety, and energy engineering.  No surveying, no geomatics.

When I asked Nick and his colleague Eric Katz, an instructor in the cyber forensics program in Purdue’s computer and information technology department, if they’d heard about Purdue’s surveying and geomatics program, they said they’re aware of it but they don’t know much about it.  They also admitted, in a polite, youthful manner, that they weren’t sure it had the “cool factor” needed to attract today’s youth.

When our conversation moved to technologies like GIS, laser scanning, and mobile mapping that the surveying professional of tomorrow needs to know, one student mentioned he’d heard that a big surveying manufacturer recently acquired an unmanned aerial vehicle company (Trimble’s recent acquisition of Gatewing).  He wondered whether that had anything to do with surveying and its future.  We went down that path for a while, all along my son continuing to play with Purdue’s online cyber security program, trying to show the college students how to crack the software code.

We left the booth with Purdue schwag for the kids, having exchanged business cards and made a commitment to work together to ensure that surveying is represented at next year’s science expo. 

I also committed to speak with leaders in our profession, including manufacturers, educators, associations, and practitioners, about how we can ensure that we are well represented at events like this and my son’s career day.

That, we all agreed, is how we can help build a future for our youth and our profession.

~Neil Sandler

About the Author

  • Neil Sandler
    Neil Sandler
    Neil is publisher of the magazine.

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