Why learning to survey is an unforgettable experience for University of Toronto engineers
As summer slips into fall before their third year of study, civil and mineral engineering students spend two weeks in the heart of cottage country to learn the art of land surveying. Survey Camp, a 175-acre property on the northern shore of Gull Lake in Haliburton, Ont., has been a fixture in field work education since 1919, when the University of Toronto purchased the land. “The country is broken and rolling and admirably suited for the various problems that arise in practical surveying,” states the 1930s camp manual.
Surveying is a core skill for these students, but “the main thing I learned at camp has more to do with life than with engineering: I learned that everybody has something valuable to offer,” says Marcia Lamont Scott (BASc 1947). “Survey Camp taught us a lot technically, but it also taught us so much about working together.”
“When you spend concentrated time sleeping, eating, learning and romancing with a group,” adds Gordon McRostie (BASc 1944), “you develop a camaraderie that is uncommon among classes.”
While the fundamentals of surveying haven’t changed since the camp opened in 1920, the students have. Lamont Scott was the first woman civil engineering grad in Ontario; in 2014, engineering boasted 31 per cent female enrolment in the incoming class. Between now and 2020, Survey Camp aims to raise $1 million to upgrade its 95-year-old buildings and add new women’s facilities.
Ekaterina Tzekova (BASc 2009, PhD 2015) got to know her fiancé, Stephen Perkins (BASc 2009), at Survey Camp; he proposed at the fire pit where their relationship kindled. While studying for her PhD, Tzekova returned to Gull Lake yearly as a teaching assistant to watch a new crop of campers make memories. “You wonder about the experiences of the students who came before you,” she says. “It’s neat how people of different generations have this place in common.”