High-Tech GPS Grade-Control System Donated to Penn College

Published 10.30.2002


Students in a half-dozen academic majors at Pennsylvania College of Technology, a special-mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University, will receive valuable training with a cutting-edge grade-control system that relies on Global Positioning System technology to move earth.

Thanks to contributions of equipment and expertise from Keystone Precision Instruments, Allan A. Myers Inc. (a company of American Infrastructure) and Flora Surveying Associates, students in the Heavy Construction Equipment Technology, Heavy Construction Equipment Technology-CAT Emphasis, Environmental Technology, Forest Technology, Construction Management, and Civil Engineering Technology majors will be working with the Trimble "SiteVision" GPS system.

Keystone Precision Instruments, based in Whitehall, donated the Trimble-built system valued at $100,000 and installed it on Penn College's Caterpillar D4H bulldozer.

The Worcester-based Allan A. Myers Inc. donated the use of a Caterpillar D6R bulldozer to demonstrate operation of the equipment recently, and the company also provided training on the GPS equipment for students and faculty.

Flora Surveying Associates, based in Gloucester, Va., developed a computer model (using "Terramodel" software) for the training session held at Penn College's Susquehanna Training Site, converting construction drawings to a format that the receivers on the bulldozers used in the training could understand.

The Trimble SiteVision GPS System allows for a project's design surfaces, grades and alignments to be maintained from within the cab of earth-moving equipment. The system will enable the College to provide operators with the training they need to do earth-moving projects without having to rely upon numerous surveying stakes to check grades, elevations and slopes.

A GPS receiver on the machine computes the exact position of the GPS antennas many times per second, and an on-board computer determines the exact position of each tip of the blade. It then compares the positions to design elevation and computes the cut or fill to grade.

At the recent training session, Keith Border, president of Keystone Precision Instruments, said companies using the state-of-the-art GPS technology are reaping immediate financial benefits, and he predicted it will become the industry standard within the next five years.

"They're moving dirt once, instead of several times," he noted, adding it's helping firms land more business by affording them an edge in the competitive contract-bidding process.

Border said Penn College is one of the first colleges in the nation to use the GPS earth-moving technology in the teaching process. He noted Trimble is also developing GPS excavating and paving systems.

"We, as a company are very proud to be involved with the College," he said. "And this is just the beginning. We hope to get the College involved with other technologies."

Steve Narducci, GPS manager for Allan A. Myers Inc., said his firm is committed to GPS-based technology. The firm currently has a total of 12 such systems, he said.

"Performance-wise, it has definitely increased our productivity," he said.

Narducci, who made a PowerPoint presentation to students in the School of Natural Resources Management at the College, said the system for heavy-equipment operators is not difficult to learn, estimating the basics can be mastered in 45 minutes' worth of instruction.

"It's been well-received by young and older (heavy equipment) operators," he said.

Bruce Flora of Flora Surveying Associates was happy to donate his time and know-how, especially when he learned of Penn College's Penn State connection. A graduate of Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Flora said, "If it has anything to do with Penn State, they can always count me in."

"Putting this at the college level is good for everybody," he added. "It is the emerging technology. It should put your facility on the cutting edge. Guaranteed, this is the way the industry is headed."

At Penn College, Heavy Construction Equipment Technology students will learn to use, install and service SiteVision GPS systems on earth-moving equipment. Environmental Technology students will use the system to monitor compaction rates in landfills.

Forest Technology students at the College will use the system for site work, controlling soil erosion and building logging roads. Civil Engineering students will use the technology in conjunction with GPS surveying and design. The Construction Management students will use the technology in conjunction with the management of site work and project estimation.

"The Heavy Construction Equipment Technology program at Pennsylvania College of Technology is the only known Heavy Construction Equipment degree program teaching the applied technology of the Trimble SiteVision GPS System," said Dr. Wayne R. Longbrake, dean of the School of Natural Resources Management. "The integration of the SiteVision GPS System into our Heavy Construction Equipment Technology degree program establishes the program with a model curriculum to serve the emerging technology needs of the construction industry."

For more information about the Trimble SiteVision GPS System, contact Keystone Precision Instruments at (800) 833-9250.

For more information about the School of Natural Resources Management at Penn College, visit on the Web or call (570) 320-8038.