Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Internship with Forsyth County Schools

Right before I graduated in December, I saw an internship posting at Forsyth County Schools, so I sent them my resume.  Shorty after, I received a phone call to come in for an interview.  We actually had to reschedule the interview three times, but they finally got me in before Christmas break.  It was my first "official" interview with my job-field.  I was nervous at first, but the interview went really well.  They told me they would make the decision today, but wouldn't call until after Christmas break.

After the interview, I began my search for graduate schools; if you have done this before, you know how stressful this can be.  It was almost a month until Forsyth Schools called me-- they offered me one of the two internship positions, and I accepted it.  I still had to fill out some paper work and get a background check, which almost took another two weeks itself.  I didn't actually start working until the very end of January. 

A school displaying the floor plan polygons (orange) and some
outside GPS attributes
When my co-worker, Mackenzie, and I first started, all we did was digitize in ArcMap.  A majority of the schools had been done by the previous interns, so we mostly did the support buildings and new schools.  The plans were already scanned in, so we just had to georeference them (give a picture coordinates to see where it is on Earth), and then trace their features.  In terms of GIS jargon, we had to add to the structure shapefile by digitizing all of the walls, windows, interior and exterior doors.  The way we did it, we would create the large wall, then split the line when a new feature showed up (like a window).  
Collecting Storm Water-
Single Wing Catch Basin

Once all of the structures were digitized, we added to the floor plan shapefile-- we would create a polygon of the outside of the school and snap it to the outer-most structure (so that all of the line features were in the big polygon).  After we created our huge school polygon, it was time to split that polygon into smaller polygons.  From the edit toolbar, we used the cut-polygon tool.  You would select the large school polygon, then trace around the structure features to create a classroom (or gym, or closet, or mechanical area, etc.).  
Storm Water- Drop Inlet Catch Basin

After each classroom had its own polygon, it was time to attribute it.  Each feature in the floor plan shapefile has attributes for room type, room number, square feet, comments, administrative area, etc.  Sometimes this information was on the scanned plan, but sometimes it wasn't.  Doing this whole procedure took some time to do-- and a little longer if the school had two floors.

Storm Water- Curb Inlet Catch Basin
We did this for almost two months until we finally got the new GPS unit (and the weather was a little warmer).  We wanted to have all of the outside attributes on our maps as well.  A majority of the schools were done, but needed to be verified, while the newer schools weren't done at all.  We had to find the civil plan which would have all of the sewer, storm water, water, gas, electric, etc. information.  We would pick one dictionary (storm water), and trace that on a copy of the plan.  One of us would have the GPS unit, while the other had the map.  We would walk around the school finding the features (headwalls, outlet control structures, junction boxes, catch basins).  Storm water, sewer, fire hydrants, electric poles, and fence posts are all easy to do since you can find these things above ground.  To find the gas, water, or electric lines, we need the locator that the maintenance people use (it sounds like you're talking to aliens).  
Storm Water-
Single Wing Catch Basin
Storm Water- Yard Inlet Catch Basin

We would spend days outside collecting all of this data.  Then, we would go back to the office and transfer it to the computer.  Even though we have SBASS turned on for the GPS (real-time correction), we would still run the differential correction tool to see if we can post process the points.  Once we are confident, we would export the data out into a geodatabase, and then import it into ArcMap with our huge GPS database.  We would copy the data from the exported geodatabase, then paste it into the right layer.  

Finding a Headwall
We would make sure that it looks right.  With objects like storm water and sewer, we would then have to connect them and follow the plan to see where they go.  With items like fence posts, we move the points a little bit to make them a little straighter, then connect them with a fence line.  Even though we are taking these points with a sub-foot GPS, tree coverage still is a factor when trying to collect points.  
Storm Water -Headwall

Our supervisor says that we are going at a nice pace, and not to worry about running out of stuff to do.  I'm glad this internship is paid-- it's not a whole lot and only 20 hours a week, but I get to do something that I like, and it's in my field.  I will have this internship until I move for graduate school. 

We collected 2,085 fence post points for one high school in a month

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