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Event Recap of the First National Geomatics Competition in Canada

The NGC Committee

The NGC Organizing Committee

A National Geomatics Competition is a concept developed by a Geomatics student named Justin Collett who felt that geomatics was underrepresented at post secondary competitions for students. With this aim in mind, he decided to start a National Geomatics Competition where Geomatics would be at the forefront of the competition to challenge students in their field and give more importance to Geomatics as an independent subject. Alongside his entire NGC organizing committee, they have spent over a year planning this event to bring it to fruition. You can read my previous interview with them here. It was my great pleasure to attend the event on GoGeomatics behalf. The competition was set up as a three day event with a GoGeomatics Social for the opening night, the actual competition the next day and then a conference on the following day.

NGC and GoGeomatics Icebreaker Social (Friday 16th February)
The Networking Night was a collaborative event between GoGeomatics and the NGC council whom dazzled the crowd with their random door prizes and other prizes that were awarded to people. The atmosphere in the room was electric. As the night wore on, students mingled with other students and faculty and GoGeomatics attendees as well as the sponsors. It was a fun night, with older generations reminiscing their student days to the younger students whom face a different reality today altogether. It was the perfect spark to start the first National Geomatics Competition as the students would need their ignition in gear for the gruelling six hour task they would be facing on Saturday.

Attendees at GoGeomatics Social Night

Attendees at GoGeomatics Social Night

Professor Derek Lichti from the University of Calgary commented upon the event as

“… an opportunity to draw attention to Geomatics on a national level because it draws students from across the country.”

Whilst Associate Professor Costas Armenakis from York University added that he felt it is a

“…networking opportunity as well as direct contact with an industry that will challenge them.”

Lichti continued to state that

“So far, it’s gone really well and it is well organized as hospitality by UNB is great.”

The Competition (Saturday 17th February)

Alexander Turner presenting the problem

Alexander Turner presenting the problem

The competitors were expected to be in Head Hall, UNB for a sharp 8am start with the final presentations being held at 2.15pm with each group being allotted fifteen minutes to make their case. Alexander Turner, who is the VP Academic of the NGC organizing committee, presented the problem to students which tasked them with creating a request for a proposal for a flood mapping and monitoring system in Karonga, Malawi. The competition was marked based on the competition rubric which look at how measurements were taken into account, local economic problems, data storage and accessibility as well as educational training.

All 9 teams before presenting their final product

All 9 teams before presenting their final product

There was anticipation in the air, but as every presenter started, the auditorium would fall silent as each member of the audience would pay their undivided attention to them. Judges and faculty were allowed to ask questions in the five minute period following the presentation which would exhibit the team’s ability to deal with unforeseen problems.

The first presentation by York University's team

The first presentation by York University’s team

The students presentations ranged from answers involving Remote Sensing data to LiDAR as well as the best GIS software available to open source software. In terms of contingency, they tried to employ local professionals or local university students to complete their taskforce. The student’s presentations were nothing short of excellent and it was the calibre in the room that reflected the brilliance of Canadian educational institutions as to where the bright future of Canadian Geomatics is headed.

From left to right; Candy Lee; Carmen Kong; Dina Amer, Nahleen Antika

From left to right; Candy Lee; Carmen Kong; Dina Amer; Nahleen Antika

Nahleen Antika from the University of Waterloo, who was also a member of the team that placed second place, gushed,

“We loved how diverse every team was, everyone brought a fresh point of view to the competition.”

Her fellow team member, Carmen Kong, said that it was a

“…cool experience to be exposed to so many professionals in the field and seeing and comparing the different applications to see what it’s like to be confronted with a consulting problem and lots of things to be considered with the project.”

The Conference (Sunday 18th February)
The conference started at promptly at 9am in the morning like clockwork, which was a testament to the dedication and hard work of the UNB organizing committee. Dina Amer, a student from the University of Waterloo, felt:

“The conference was a delightful way to showcase the different aspects of our field. Despite companies working in the same field, they have completely different purposes and aims.”

0900hrs – Opening Address by Imelda Perry

Imelda Perry

Imelda Perry

The first speaker was Imelda Perry, who is the UNB elder-in-residence. She talked about Walastook which was the traditional name of the St. John River. She beautifully sang a song in her native tongue whilst beating a drum which was a wonderfully melodious way to start the day. She represents the local aboriginal communities and the traditional territory we now sit on and is a vocal advocate for native issues.

0930hrs – Tim Steeves, Challenger Geomatics

Tim Steeves presenting 3D Scanner Technology

Tim Steeves presenting 3D Scanner Technology

Tim Steeves from Challenger conducted the first official presentation called “3D Laser Scanning Applications in Geomatics”. During the presentation, he talked about how 3D laser was conducted and collected and used. He then continued to exhibit the history of 3D scanner technology, including the pros and cons of this technology.

1000hrs – Neil Gerein, Novetel

Neil Gerein from Novatel

Neil Gerein from Novatel

Neil Gerein discussed “Accuracy, Availability and Assurance” in terms of his work. He discussed UAVs and the future of Precision Agriculture as well as stating the fact that tracking all GNSS signals increases accuracy. He personally sees the industry increasing demands for safety standards in the workplace because there is an increasing demand for higher safety standards for using positioning technology in the workplace.

1100hrs – Terry Dietz, Callon Dietz

Terry Deitz and Mike Simpson from Callon Dietz

Terry Deitz and Mike Simpson from Callon Dietz

Terry Dietz and his colleague Mike Simpson focused on “Surveying the future” where they recounted stories from past employees who discussed how workplaces can thrive and how individual experiences matter. They emphasized the importance of building strong relationships with coworkers.

1130hrs – Industry Experts Panel

From left to right; Neil Gerein, Terry Dietz, Tim Steeves, Bernie Conners and Mike Wolf

From left to right; Neil Gerein; Terry Dietz; Tim Steeves; Bernie Conners and Mike Wolf

Neil Gerein, Terry Dietz, Tim Steeves, Bernie Conners and Mike Wolf took questions from attendees. They answered questions from workplace environments to the future of Geomatics and surveying as a profession with each of them providing their personal insights to the answer.

1330hrs –Mike Wolf, New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure

Mike Wolf from DTI

Mike Wolf from DTI

Mike Wolf talked about “RPAS Innovations” which referred to innovations in remotely piloted aerial systems. He discussed how DTI collaborated with the University of New Brunswick to understand how this technology can be further utilized. He demonstrated how natural disasters can be mapped.

1400hrs – Dr. Monica Wachowicz, UNB

Dr. Monica Wachowicz from UNB

Dr. Monica Wachowicz from UNB

Dr. Monica Wachowicz discussed “Behind Big Data” where she presented upon how interrelated Geomatics is with emerging technologies. She talked about how we analyze data is changing and how Big Data, the Internet of Things and real time streaming analytics are playing a big part of that. She stated that this trend would continue as an increasing role for location intelligence is needed.

Keynote by Dr. John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin, who is a UNB president emeritus, gave a touching speech about how the Geomatics world has changed since he started in the 1960’s. He emphazied the necessity of intellectuals communicating with eachother about their views generally on mapping and how important it is to network and collaborate.


Challenger booth with Tim Steeves

Challenger booth with Tim Steeves and Candace Brunt

“The first NGC was a success. Challenger was one of the sponsors of the conference and set-up a company booth which provided good networking with the all the students. I participated in the project judging, presented a talk on 3D Laser Scanning Applications in Geomatics as well as one of panel experts. I found the students to be very engaged throughout the presentations and had very good questions for the panel. The conference was very well organised beginning with the Friday Trivia – Ice breaker which provided a good social gathering between the students and sponsors. Judging the student team projects was a challenge. Each group provided their own unique scenario to complete the task. Overall all the groups did an excellent job, considering the complexity of the task and limited time to complete. The next NGC conference is scheduled to be at the University of Calgary and Challenger is looking forward to being involved and contributing to the overall success.”

-Tim Steeves, Challenger

I think the problem was interesting, not too difficult, and open to many different approaches based on the teams experiences and skill-sets. The process was intense for the teams (short timeline) but they all did excellent work. The time allotted for scoring was a little short and could be extended for the judges. I think the competition reached out to all regions and showed me that the institutions are all doing well with teaching the standards as well as keeping with modern technology.

-Brandon MacDonald, WSP Canada Inc.

The Gala (Later on Sunday)

Dinner place at the Gala

Dinner place at the Gala

The gala consisted of a three course dinner as well as a welcoming address from Dr Peter Dare who is the Chair of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering at the University of New Brunswick. It was the best way to wind down the event as the ballroom presented attendees with a wonderful murmur of conversation where it was evident that attendees were engulfed in animated discussions at each table. 

The prizes were awarded in the following order; third place was awarded to Kelly Harker, Edmund Leahy, and Miriam Dietz from the University of Calgary; second place was awarded to Aujas Bandlish, Nahleen Antika, and Carmen Kong from the University of Waterloo; first place was awarded to Jake Surgenor, Kurt Hamlyn, Bennett Faulhammer from the University of New Brunswick.

From left to right; Jake Surgenor; Kurt Hamlyn; Bennett Faulhammer

From left to right; Jake Surgenor; Kurt Hamlyn; Bennett Faulhammer

Jake Surgenor from the University of New Brunswick, who was part of the team that won first place, said

“It was an awesome experience, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s competition!”.

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