November 12, 2019

IE8: Survey

Kevin Lafferty, Kyree McLeod



On this episode of Inside Engineering, we talk with Kevin Lafferty and Kyrie McLeod from our Survey Group about how they each got started in the industry, how survey has changed over time and how new technologies are expanding their capabilities.
Inside Engineering, Ulllntold stories
and fascinating people from the world of civil engineering. This is Episode 8, recorded in October 2019. Survey with Kevin Lafferty and Kyrie McLeod. Inside Engineering is brought to you by RK&K. Learn more at
Welcome back to another episode of Inside
Engineering. We have brought our A game today, but with us in the studio today. I'm especially excited. I'm excited about every every episode and all of our guests. But I'm excited today to have with me Kevin Lafferty and Kyrie McLeod. They are a survey team here at RK&K and we have a lot of fun together. We've done some different video projects together and it's always been a lot of fun. So thank you guys both for coming into the studio.
Why don't we start by telling us how how did
you become a surveyor, Kevin? All right. Oh, and then and then well, you know, Kyrie, we'll give you a chance to tell us where you're at. And you guys can, you know, sort of play off each other here. It's gonna be fun. Oh, yeah. Now, first of all, thanks for having us, Tim. This is awesome. Absolutely. A lot of times the surveyors were in the woods. You don't get to see our face, though. We appreciate it, man. The new the new spot looks real good. Of course. You closed it off, it looks like it looks like a pro studio. It's gonna go away. It's cool. But so surveying, I guess. I guess, I got a typical start surveying. And when you become a surveyor, you don't even really know what surveying is.
I happened to luck out.
My mother's best friend's husband was a licensed surveyor at a company two thousand feet to the east of us. And I got my start there. They said, 'Can you carry 50 pounds? 800 feet in the freezing cold. I said, 'Yeah man!'. That was the description? 'Can you carry 50 pounds, 800 feet the in the freezing cold.' Yeah. And I was like, sure. Yeah, I can do that. Yeah. You know, my first day was it was actually snowing and all I had all was a T-shirt and jeans and a pair of kicks. And I just just again, just to clarify, that was not at RK&K. That was... We would we would not have done that to you. Exactly. Well, it was a different time too man. 2002 is when I started. And, you know, I was lucky enough to be able to go to Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, which for a lot of us Baltimore City youths who, you know, college might not have been in the cards for us, they gave us the ability to make a living. And I had a surveying class at Poly. I was the last class to get hand drafting at Poly. And I was the first class to get AutoCAD at Poly. So. Interesting. Yeah. Now, I lucked out. I lucked out. I definitely did. But the like I said, I want all my interview. They said, 'Where did you go to high school?' I said, 'I graduated from poly four months ago.' And they said, 'You start Monday morning, 6:30 a.m. and we're going to pay 10 bucks an hour.' Now in '02 10 bucks an hour to start out, I was like, 'Man, I made it. I'm good.' Like I went from 6 bucks an hour at a deli to 10 bucks an hour and overtime and health insurance. I get sick now. Yeah. That's the life. Sad state of things. So ever since, you know, I just kind of I just just kind of been grinding away at the survey life. And, you know, I really enjoy it. You know, I'm good at math and I like to be outside. Well, I was going to ask you what you really enjoy it. Why do you need math and survey? Because I wouldn't immediately think, I will say I will preface this for all our listeners. This is gonna be a great episode for you because I'm gonna get to learn right alongside of you everything that happens in survey. So why is math important in survey? Well, I mean, everything we do is math based. You know, essentially what a surveyor does is we give you a latitude, longitude, and an elevation of a point on earth to sub-millimeter accuracy. Sub-milleter accuracy. Well I mean you know with a G.P.S. unit. No I'm not diminishing it. I'm just like, I'm like that's crazy. That's amazing. Yeah. So I mean it's... We'll talk about some of the cool tools that you have a little bit. Of course, of course. But yeah. I mean. I mean that's essentially what we do. We just have to we just have to go through hell and high water to get that latitude, longitude and elevation sometimes. We'll have you tell us a story in a few minutes. Yeah man, definitely. Well, Kyree. How did you get — Kevin found out through school — how did you get into doing what you're doing? Because I can tell from the smile on your face and talking to you, you like what you do? Yeah. I like what I do. Had a little rough path at the beginning. I didn't know what I wanted to do. You know, I was a high school, you know, used to joke around and stuff. I didn't really know what I want to do. This company came to my school and they didn't have RK&K, the had Century Engineers. That had a bunch of different companies there. And they were flying drones and stuff. And I was like, 'Oh, this was cool. Let me sign up and see if I can get an internship'. I
had an interview with Fred.
Fred Greim. Our head of survey. Yup. I had an interview with him. He liked me for the job.
I came in, I was nervous because I didn't want to
mess up. I was like, 'This is a good opportunity. You know I'm 18; let me take advantage of this.' Basically, I took advantage of it. And then while I was here that's I met Kevin. That's where he first got hired. So I want to say about a week or two after he got hired that's when I got the call to the office and I got hired for full time. So I was glad to get 15 an hour. So you know I couldn't complain, that's the most I have of ever made. I've got a lot of stuff, like he said, health insurance and everything. I was just glad to get all that at a young age because you know alot of people 18 19
not doing what I'm doing right now. Not making 15 dollars an hour.
Not saving. Not working. So I'm just glad to be where I'm at. It's a very similar experience. I tell you, I mean everybody in survey and it just happens like that. You know somebody or you like Kyrie, you get this internship and then you're like, 'You know what? I don't have a boss hanging over my shoulder the whole time I'm at my job. I get to go out in the world. I get to experience things.' And it's I mean, it's it's really, really fun. It's a shame because it's a dying art. Well, you know, we are actually having issues in the survey world, not just here at RK&K but everywhere that, you know, we can't get young guys or girls who want to come out and try being a surveyor because I guess nobody wants to work outside and everybody wants a flex schedule. I mean, I want to flex schedule, but it gets dark early, so I can't. Right. Alright. So can you guys maybe walk us through what a typical survey project might be? I have no idea what typical means in your world. And I imagine there's a lot of different kinds of... There might be kinds of different kinds of survey or different kind of tools that we use depending on the job. So maybe walk through a typical thing and kind of discuss what some of those alternatives might be, depending on the kind of project,. If you don't mind Tim I'm going to default to Kyrie on this. I like it. I want to... I want to see... I want to see what the young grasshopper is learning. Oh, see what you've been teaching him?
We didn't tell you there was going to be a test.
So a typical project. You know, we come in, you know, Monday morning get the project. You know, if our project manager here, talk to him before we leave, if he's not you just leave. Go to the job site, make sure you have a GPS. You know, be sure you have your gun, your collector, your walkie talkies, your level — make sure you got everything you need. So we first start out we walk the site, make sure, you know, we can see where we at, mark our limits, make sure we good. We set our points with our rebar cap in the ground and then run our G.P.S. for 25 to 30 minutes — well maybe more sometimes if we need to. It has to be a our point. We even.
We can start shooting topo or we could go to another section
to do G.P.S. or we could get inverts on top of manholes over our levels. Do whatever your Crew Chief wants you to do at that moment.
and then after that, that's how you start the project up.
Clap it up.
I was definitely impressed on that.
Good work, Kyree. Alright. So let's let's take that and let's break that down. OK. Why are you going out to survey a site? A lot of times it's we're in the middle of a ongoing project and an in-house engineer needs data on a critical area, whether it be, 'Where is all this storm drain going? Where's all this sanitary going?' Right now, we're in Delaware and we're doing a bunch of ADA handicap ramps. They're not compliant for whatever reason to the ADA standards. So know, like Kyree said, we go out there with a G.P.S.. We set some points. We get lat and long and elevation on those points set up. We map out the critical areas, which are in this case on the handicap ramps and. We come back and we give it to our CADD techs and they they do. They do her wizardry and they give it... they come up with a deliverable of what the engineer was asked for. And then we submit to the engineer or we submit it to the client depending on who's giving us the work. OK. So, I heard between both of you, I heard some different terminology in there. I mean, I know there's... You use G.P.S. a lot. Let's let's go back in time a little bit to when we didn't have G.P.S.. OK. Well, how did we do a survey without G.P.S.? Well. I mean, I've been serving since '01 and we've had G.P.S. since '01. OK. Nevermind my question. Well, I you know, I do know. OK. You know the answer, good. So they would set up and the surveyors would set up and do a sun shot. And basically it's where you get an azimuth on... What's an azimuth? An azimuth is is a angle with a zero — the green line — and it can be anywhere from 0 to 360 degrees. And you get you get an azimuth and a bearing. A bearing is kind of like an azimuth, except for it's broken into four quadrants and 90 degrees. OK. Real, real technical stuff. You sound so smart right now. Well, yeah. You take a sun shot. And by doing that, basically, you set up your total station and you bisect the edges of the sun and then get the distance. And I believe you got a very well not inaccurate for the time, a very accurate reading, but compared to the sub-millmeter what we can do by just pressing a button and connecting to a network. You know, it's just gotten exponentially better over the last couple of decades. OK, so, so fast forward to now. We have this this technology. I know I was out on one site with you guys. Mount Sinai. Yeah that's right. We were at out at that location. And you had this this thing on a tripod that spun in a circle. Help me out, guys. Yeah. That's our robot. So now. So before robots, you had conventional total stations and a total station measures angles and time. A lot of people think it measures angles and distance. It actually calculates the distance by calculating how much time it takes from the beam to go to the total station to the prisum where you're at and back to the total station. So with the... It's almost like a radar. Yeah almost. You're measuring the distance based on the time it takes for that ping to get back. Exactly. Exactly. But with the advent of the robotic total stations, it frees you up to have your operator come out front with you. A lot of times I'm in a roadway. So I can control it remotely from thousand feet away. Not that we take thousand foot shots, engineers,. We don't do that. Nothing over 350 guys! It has reception out to that and we stay within that 350. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Before with a convetional it would be hard because if he's like, you know, running to get shot like and not get hit it would be hard because I would have to move it, set it, you know do all that. And now I can just lock on and let him go. And it stays locked
unless he's running too fast.
Which I which I don't do. I do not outrun the robot. You'd have to be. You have to be Usain Bolt. Exactly. Exactly. OK. So. And then there's different... You mentioned the word typos, topography. OK. So what... Talk to me about that. What is what does that mean in the world of survey? Alright. So a Topo is basically just a gathering of data points that have exact north east and elevation on them. And it shows the lay of the land, the contours of the land and the physical features of the land. So it's like a point cloud. Well, it is, yeah. You're getting a bunch of points that can be assembled into a
Look at this guy. Look at it. He knows what's up. Yeah, but I've been I've been lucky enough to work on a few projects where obviously survey has been involved. And, you know, I work with Tom Earp a lot. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, he did. We gotta cut you off a bit. We did a drone survey for Cascade Lake in the summer. And, you know, I'd been to Cascade Lake growing up, you know, in the summer to go swimming. And then I go up there last year and it's empty. And I'm like, 'Tom, what's going on, man?' He goes, 'Well, you know, sometimes things happen. So we've got a we've got a project to do and we're gonna we're gonna fly this entire site with a drone. You're gonna lay out these recalled panel points.' Basically, it's just like a big square with a T in the middle of it that the drone can pick up. Ground control. Yeah. Yeah. Ground control to Major Tim.
I mean, it's you know, with with
technology, surveyors definitely get to do a lot more. I mean, it's not just a total station anymore and a prisum poll. It's a 3D scanner that can make a 2 million point cloud in 30 minutes. It's a it's a drone that can pick up large areas to a pretty accurate degree. It's G.P.S. that allows you to bring control into your site without having to run three miles of traverse or three miles levels. So you know I think we're fortunate to be a part of surveing in this time.
There's there's some other kinds of surveys,
or at least maybe deliverables that I've seen. I've seen some ones that are. It's like it looks like a rainbow of colors. In the final product, you see. It's almost like it's almost like an infrared map to some degree in that in that regard. What is that? Can you help me out? I'm still learning. For those of you listening, Kevin just shot Kyree a look like, 'You got this one? And Kyree doesn't seems like he's got this one. You learn something every day, right? And right now I'm still learning. You're still a padawan learner. This is your this is your Jedi Master here. OK. That's a little Star Wars reference. Right on. So that would be like a sub utility map and each line is a different color meaning. And it has it it lets you know what's under the ground. So like a green line is where your sanitary lines and blue line is where your water lines are. Red lines for your electric, orange is for communication, yellow is for gas. Pink is, I think, unknown, and purple's like something else. But I'd say it's basically just you have a sub, you'd like a Miss Utility, go out, paint up all the lines for you, and then a surveyer will come back and locate it with north east and elevation. So how are you locating? I mean, you Miss Utility is giving you a general idea of where it's at. How do you have a way to know exactly where it's at? Well, I mean. So they paint the lines on the ground for you coming from all one utility to the next utility. And generally, they give you a hand drawn map that is color coded and then you just come behind them and you're basically retracing. Based on their markings you're getting more precise data. Exactly. Gotcha. OK. Because, you know, they're good within, I think, a foot and a half, two feet of width and that's what they're liable for. But a surveyor, I mean, you've gotta be a lot more accurate than that. Definitely.
That's an interesting thing, actually, you
mention that. Surveyors there is there is a liability that's that's there. There is like when you stamp that, you surveyed something like that's an official thing. Am I right? Yeah. I mean. Yeah, I mean, licensed surveyors, you know, I'm working toward getting licensed. I've been in the game long enough to where I probably should be licensed by now. But, you know, we all take different paths. Anyway, A licensed surveyor, he will look over all your work and he or she will either they'll stamp it and you know, like a lot of a lot of license surveyors. I mean, they got to carry hundreds of thousands of dollars liability insurance. Sure. You know, you put
a building too close to a property line.
Guess what? That foundation has got to be moved, you know, even if they start building it. And when one to us surveyors, we have our hands in
almost every piece of the civil engineering
world, because without our field data, they can't come up with, you know, what their plan is to improve something. Right. So we have to make sure that we're as
accurate as we can be while being as reasonable
and prudent as we can be to get the engineers the data they need, not just so, you know, to cover our butts, but a lot of that has to do with public safety. And, you know, things like things like having the robot and being able to have Kyree out in the road with me. It's it's
not just about protecting me.
It's about protecting the public. Because at the end of the day, that's why we're doing all these projects, is to improve the quality of life of the public around this. Because I want to make sure we cover survey in a way that you guys think is good. So what's something we haven't talked about yet?
I mean, you know, definitely the technical aspect
of it. I'll feel as if we covered and the
new wave of technology.
I think that is the most interesting thing because surveying has been the same for thousands of years. I mean, the pyramids were laid out by a 1 meter rope, and then it's evolved over time, but not until the turn of the century have we seen this technological boom that, one: is keeping us in business. I mean, because. I mean, with some of the technology, people think they can go out and map whatever they want to map. But the term survey grade still means something. Mm hmm. And that's what our clients want is survey grade. And by all these new technologies, we're able to expand our horizons while still being able to keep within the parameters of having a particular survey grade. Sure. What are some of the technologies that that you're talking about? Can you... Kyree, you wanna take this one? G.P.S.
is one.
The Collector. Many people don't know our collect is Bluetooth, so it's Bluetooth and it can connect to the Internet. So like we had an instance where... say if we're up in Delaware and one of our project managers will need something off the Collector but
it's up in Delaware with us. We can connect to
the Internet here in Baltimore and send it through e-mail and then they can have a we can go back to work and do what we doing. Ahh, quick access to the data. So it's service like it's just the tablet's like a mini computer,. The collaboration. So like you know the technology in that, you know it's above me. I'm just glad to be born in the 21st century. Yes, I'll tell you this man. If I was if I was a surveyor in the '70s, I think they would have given me the boot. You not only had to have a great work ethic, you had to be tough. I could not imagine not being able to call Project Manager in the field. But, you know, back then. You had to make a call on your own. Yeah. Yeah. You had to make a decision on your own without that input. Or you would have to drive to a payphone. And, you know, we have cameras on our phones or if we have a question and we can take a picture of it before they would just put a Kodak disposable camera in our in our job folder and say all you got 26 pictures. Make 'em good. Wow. I'll also say the drone, while I watched the last episode,That was pretty awesome. Ah yeah, Episode 2. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the drone technology is is amazing. I mean, and you
know anything from just a simple
mapping to getting the correct attachments
for the drone that you could fly
a farm on the eastern shore and have a sensor on it that will detect low levels of nitrogen. So then that means that area needs to be fertilized. So that means the farmer can save money instead of buying a whole field's worth of fertilizer, they can just buy this X amount of square feet of fertilizer from, you know, what your what your drone told you where they need it. That's pretty wild. I mean, it's stuff with drones is really there's a lot happening. Yeah, definitely. You got to get your license. And you know, so things are changing in Maryland. When I first came up, you got to Alright, there was three paths to get your license. You could either have a four year degree and a bachelors and survey and then sit for your license, even exam or a two year degree. With I believe it was four years field experience and then you set for your licensing exam and then my rule. Course the most difficult of the rounds was 12 years field experience. And then you could sit for your license. Well, coming up within the next two or three years, they're going to do away with the 12 year two to you and you have to have a four year degree. And it's say that Maryland can keep up with other states around us that require a four year degree. So I am mildly diligently working toward getting my life. I'm hoping to have it within the next two years. That's a good story. I meant your drone license, but that's OK. No, I'm not gonna do that. No, I'm not. I don't want that liability or me, 'cause I might get nervous, might crash a drone. And we don't want you to do that. I don't want to do that. Yeah I don't want that. I'm gonna get my survey license. I'd rather go to school for four years and just do that. Is that what you're going to do. Yeah, in the future. I mean, if you were kept away from the last podcast, I'm in school now. So. Yeah. Yeah, he made a promise and he fulfilled that promise. In the last video, I told everyone I was gonna go to school and now I'm in school. Congrats. Where are you going? CCBC Catonsville. Dude, it's where I started. It's great. Good school. Yeah. All right. Well, hey, we've reached a time in the episode now, which I know you guys have been looking forward to. Where we come to our picks of the week, where where Kevin and Kyree are going to recommend something to us that they think we will be interested in. We've had all kinds of picks so far. So, gents. Kevin, you wanna go first? I'm not sure Kyree's ready yet! I'm still trying to think. It
makes the day, it really makes the day,
especially when you've had a long, hard day, you could just be like. Mm hmm. Hi, love. Whoa. Yeah,. Yeah, it's pretty good. It's what's up. It's what's up. So check it out. Check it. Whitney Houston, resurgence of 80 of 80s, pop 80s. That's the recommendation. Alright. Kyree, you got anything for us? I don't really have a pick. I just have something I, you know, tell myself every day. OK. Yeah. Yeah. What's what's advice price that you give yourself? Just appreciate your life, more and more, you know. You know, 'cause we live in a crazy city, if people don't know. Yeah. So, you know, life is getting shorter and shorter for, you know, us young people especially. It's hard out here. So just pushing, push every day, try to get through it. You know, just live life every day to the fullest. That's what I tell myself. Live life to the fullest everyday. Kevin. This is a pop question here right at the end. Pop question. If you could give yourself advice back when you were at Polytechnic, what would you tell yourself?
I mean,
I don't know. I think. I think I think I did it. I think I did it the right way. I mean, I'm glad that I knew at a early age that college wasn't for everybody. And I'm also glad that I was able to get into a trade school that would set me up for my career.
And I'm very, very happy that and I know
you don't hear many people say this, but I'm very happy I didn't go to college because if I would've went to college in 2002 to 2006, I would have got out of college and into the industry smack dab in the middle of the recession. And because I'd already had seven years experience before the recession hit, I became a valuable member of a team. So, my advice to 18 year old Kevin is maybe slow down on the carbs a little bit and, you know, just just believe believe in yourself and and believe in your path and God
willing, man, it'll all work out for ya in the
end and I'm and I tell you man and I had to job jump a couple of times and I'm just so happy that I found RK&K. I'm happy that I'm a buffalo. I'm, you know, I'm gonna work here until til somebody tells me I can't work here anymore. And, you know, like I said, I'm just I'm just very blessed to be in the position I'm in. I'm happy to have a survey division around me that is of the utmost excellence. I'm very happy to have a boss and a leader like Fred Greim and you know, it's really cool — like I didn't know this man from the man in the moon when we first started. And we've become friends. And I'll tell you, one of the hardest parts about being a party chief and befriending your — I guess not just the Party Chief, but any manager — and befriending, you know, a subordinate is they don't know the line between friendship and, 'Okay, you've got to you've got to listen to me because I'm your boss.'. Right. And you know, when we're in a field Kyree
respects that, and I and I can't
I can't say how much I appreciate that from him. I truly do love the fact that he respects me as a Party Chief. But as soon as those Party Chief boots come off me and I'm just another dude and and Kyree gets that. And I think that's why our friendship has been or has been true over the last year and a half.
Man, go in the field man.
I always got respect. You gotta always respect, you know, your elders, you know your older people. Older people. When we in the field I know je's not going to tell me anything wrong. I need to listen because one day I'm gonna be in his shoes. One day he be my iron man and I'll be the Crew Chief. Or one day he'll be retired and I'll be calling him with a question, like, 'Kevin, I'm on a project, I need your help.' So that's why I listen to him. That's what I try to do. So, you know, from 8am to 3 is, you know, is straight work, Kevin's the boss. But after 3 it's just friendship. It is just you know, we do want we want to do — talk about basketball, football, play basketball. You know, we just have fun with each other, yeah. Yeah, that's what's up. Like I said, it's a it's a very rare jam to find a friend in your in your place of work. That's awesome. Well, gents. That about wraps this up. Oh, we just dear, we just did. Man, we've been rolling for a while. And there's only been one missed take and it was on the host. It was on me. But we crushed it. Only had edit 10 or 12 things that it was all my fault. No, it's perfect. It's perfect. Well, you know, thank you guys for coming in to the studio today. I appreciate you taking some time out of your schedule. That wraps this us for today, everyone. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Inside Engineering. We release a new episode every Tuesday. You can check us out on our home at where you can stream every episode on demand, as well as leave some feedback. We'd love some feedback on on this episode. Show us a lot of love around the office. That's right. We'd love to know our feedback. You know, so we come back again for the next episode... Season two. Season two We know how to make it even better. Right. So we can make season two even better. Exactly. You can also find us on your favorite podcasting platform or on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Spreaker, Tune-in, Google. I left something else out, Blubrry. We're in as many places as we could possibly think of being because we want to make sure that you have access to it. So check us out. Like rate review, share do do all the things that you supposed to do with the podcast. But thanks for tuning in and we'll see you next week on another episode of Inside Engineering.

Show Notes

Pick of the Week

Kevin’s pick is his resurgent love for the music of Whitney Houston. He loves to loudly belt out her tunes in the car.

Kyree’s pick is his mantra to life every day to fullest.

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