Engineering student seeks to help surveyors

By Costa Maragos Posted: August 6, 2015 6:00 a.m.

(L- R) Nathan Bruce, U of R master’s student, accepts his award from Wade Zwicker, Vice-President of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering
(L- R) Nathan Bruce, U of R master’s student, accepts his award from Wade Zwicker, Vice-President of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering (Photo courtesy of Pavlography)

Engineering student Nathan Bruce has come up with a method that might make life a little easier for surveyors and for people working at Regina’s City Hall.

Bruce’s work has won him this year’s Student Paper Competition, awarded by the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering. Bruce is enrolled in his first year of Master’s of Applied Science in the Faculty of Engineering. He had earned a Bachelor’s of Applied Sciences in Environmental Engineering.

“I was shocked and honoured when my name was called. I was happy to represent our school at the competition,” says Bruce, as he reflects on receiving the award in Regina recently.

Bruce’s research was inspired while working as a surveyor for a local engineering firm. He observed that some of the city’s benchmark data was either missing or out of date.

“What people may not realize is that there are brass disks or plates attached to concrete blocks that are a foot underground at sites throughout the city. Other markers are set on the sides of buildings or light poles,” explains Bruce.

These markers can reveal a lot of key information for surveyors, such as horizontal and vertical co-ordinates used for civil projects including roads, sidewalks, drainage pipes and building projects.

But missing markers and out-of-date information about them can cause some problems.

“We once stumbled on one marker that was 14 metres away from where it was supposed to be. We lucked out and found it in good time, but it could have cost us time and energy better spent on the work that we needed to complete,” says Bruce.

Bruce’s research paper suggests ways for the city to better document this information and present data to surveyors.

“Unlike other student papers, Nathan's paper has lots of good, practical implications. Also, he used a real-life example to illustrate the potential benefits of his proposed method, which is uncommon among his peers,” says Dr. Kelvin Ng, Associate Professor of Environmental Systems Engineering.

Bruce says the city should look at providing an on-line resource for reporting of the markers and be diligent about updating its data.  Bruce is considering submitting his paper to the city for a look.
 
Bruce’s award puts him in some impressive company.  There were over 35 entries this year from across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. It’s the first time a U of R student has won in the history of this international student competition.