Geomatics STEM Outreach – NM State Prep Academy

Editor’s note: With all the talk among surveying and geospatial practitioners and the professional associations and societies about outreach, succession planning, and recruitment, it is great to see examples of action from across the country. Here is a great model for other state societies to emulate from New Mexico, courtesy of David Acosta, PS, president of geospatial services at CSTi LLC, xyHt contributor, and past 40-under-40 honoree.

After receiving training with a survey-grade GNSS rover, the students staked out the huge letters shown in the article header photo above. They took the aerial photo a UAS they learned to use.

Last month I had the opportunity to work with New Mexico State University (NMSU) Outreach and Recruiting at the main campus in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  As part of a summer program called NM State Prep Academy, aimed at STEM students, we organized an all-day event for both middle and high school students (95 students total). The classes consisted of six activities that allowed the students to gain hands-on experience with surveying, geospatial, and BIM (Building Information Modeling) tools and software. 

The full-day program included a visit to an active construction site.

The prep day included the following:

  • BIM – where the students viewed a Revit model of a new project being constructed on campus, and they received instruction from BIM specialists A.J. Marez and John Dillander.
  • Construction – the students then took a field trip to the new construction site and learned about safety and how to read construction plans, and they toured the site with CJ Jiron who spent years as a superintendent.
  • GPR  (ground penetrating radar)  – the students worked with Paul Mares and used a GSSI GPR antenna to search for sub-surface utilities on the Horse Shoe (nickname for the campus grounds from the horseshoe shape formed by the main buildings) and also used a GSSI structure scan tool to perform GPR indoors.
  • UAS – Conrad Roybal,  Jesse Gutierrez and Anthony Gutierrez (FAA Part 107 Pilots), taught the students about UAS surveying and had multiple drones with multiple sensors and payloads.
  • VR/AR – Mellissa Lewis, a BIM coordinator, showed the students how to use virtual reality and augmented reality and demonstrated how she uses these tools in her daily workflow.
  • Geomatics – Kery Greiner, Armando Rios, and Edgar Amaro lead a discussion with the students on the NMSU Horse Shoe about their experiences in geomatics and then showed them how to stake out points with a Trimble GPS rover.  Each group staked out a letter which eventually spelled “NM PREP,” similar to football field endzone lettering.

The program was open to middle and high school STEM students (95 enrolled)

Students were given hands-on instruction in ground penetrating radar.

Organizing the activities of this event was a great experience for everyone involved.  It allowed all of us a chance to share our passion for what we do.  A lot of these students, much like myself at that age are not sure what they want to study in college.  I believe by sharing our experiences on how we came into the geospatial field helps the students envision themselves doing it. 

Thanks to our sponsors New Mexico Professional Surveyors (NMPS), HB Construction, and CSTi LLC for donating hardhats, T-shirts, and reflective vests for the construction site.  It was awesome to see everyone come together to give these students a good idea of a career path in a geospatial field.  Several students and even camp counselors showed interest in geomatics. 

One high school student stopped me as I walked down the hall and said, “I want to do geomatics when I go to college.”  One of the camp counselors, Rachel Beal, became very interested in geomatics and BIM from the camp and interned with CSTi in the latter half of the summer. 


The field of geomatics has a lot to offer to someone who enjoys being outdoors and being part of construction and land development.  The current issue is that not enough is being done to market the career path.  I feel that there are students young and old, who would love to be involved with geomatics but never get a chance to experience it or learn about it.  I’m glad we had a chance to influence the students and counselors at the NM State Prep Academy, and l look forward to doing it again next summer.

Virtual reality, augmented reality, and BIM were featured on the prep day.

If you have been involved in a similar outreach program for surveying and/or geospatial STEM and would like to share your experience, contact, and we’d be happy to publish your story and help promote these vital programs.

Several students expressed and interest in geomatics as a career.

Additional photos:

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