Applied math and streambank restoration

Alzar School | 26.04.13

We have just finished the long phase of construction at the Alzar School and I still can remember when our confluence building, bath house, and staff apartments were nothing but survey markers.  The markers are all gone, but the man who placed them is sticking around.  Chip Bowers is a local professional land surveyor with a great passion for the profession and enthusiasm to show young students how the skills they are learning in math class are applied in his field every day.  During the spring, he will assist students with surveying theory and technology as we develop plans for a major river restoration and bank stabilization project on campus.

Some of the hands-on activities are still yet to come, but we are making the first introduction to surveying work this week and next Monday.  Chip is sponsoring Alzar School students in a national competition called Trig-Star.  The students take a one-hour test that consists of four practical survey problems.  Each problem gets progressively harder as students use creative problem solving strategies to find unknown distance on a map.  All the information necessary is given, but sometimes students have to draw extra lines, find multiple angles, and define new dimensions within the problem to find the answer.  Guessing on this test is not an option: if students are off by a 1000th of a degree, chip won’t be happy.  But when they work through each problem following the equations we use in class and taking full advantage of their calculators, Alzar School students have the potential to distinguish themselves on the national level.  Next time we all see Chip, our students will be developing survey problems of their own.


The final problem on last year's test