Moving dirt using satellites. That’s what students in the Great Oaks Heavy Equipment Operations and Engineering program are learning to do, thanks to a $500,000 software and equipment donation from Trimble, a geospatial solutions company.
Using an Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Virtual Reference Station (VRS) and a handheld device called a Rover, students preparing a building site can survey land anywhere in Ohio with pinpoint accuracy. Virtual Reference Stations, which look a bit like rockets, are located at ODOT sites throughout the state.
“High school and adult students are learning this cutting edge technology,” said instructor Barney Brill. “They can create a digital 3D model of the area and use it in their work.” Brill said that the digital model dramatically reduces surveying errors and students operating large earthmoving equipment can be very precise in preparing a building site or roadway.
The Trimble GPS technology also supports automatic machine controls. With it, heavy equipment operators move the machines on the project while watching an in-cab screen with a mini machine moving on the drawing. The on-board technology talking with the satellites actually controls the blade or bucket on the machine to precision tolerances. Brill said that a local heavy equipment company is loaning the automatic machine control equipment to Great Oaks for several weeks each year so students can gain experience on it.
Great Oaks is just one of two schools in Ohio using Trimble GPS technology, which is the cutting-edge standard for professionals in the industry. “There has been nothing like this technology to date,” said Brill.
The Trimble donation provides software and hardware, as well as support for the instructors.