Training the next generation of Civil, Structural and Environmental engineers - University College Cork

Training the next generation of Civil, Structural and Environmental engineers

Training the next generation of Civil, Structural and Environmental engineers - University College Cork

Author: Simon Hall

Founded in 1845 as one of three Queen's Colleges, the University College Cork (UCC) is a constituent university of the National University of Ireland. The university employs over 700 academic staff, and is attended by over 15,000 undergraduate students, and over 4000 post-graduates. Amongst other rankings and awards, the university was named Irish University of the Year on five occasions: most recently in 2017.

The department of Civil engineering at UCC offers BE (Hons) and ME Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering degree. These courses are focused on producing Civil, Structural and Environmental engineers to work in design and construction and be able to operate in a wide range of environmental/infrastructure sectors, vital to the needs of a modern economy. Second year students must undertake module on surveying theory and practice which is what this equipment was purchased for.


Practical Survey Theory and Practise

In September 2021, UCC began a project to procure equipment to enable the on-campus delivery of the practical element of their Surveying Theory and Practice module. Prior to this project, the practical element of surveying was taught off campus. The practical component of the module is vital and ensures students have experience using levelling, surveying and GPS equipment. As class numbers can range from 30 to 60 students at a time, flexibility in the equipment inventory to be procured was a key consideration. Another key consideration was the interoperability of the equipment and licencing and integration with both surveying and civil engineering software.

One of the primary drivers behind the project was the need to work with a cutting-edge surveying equipment supplier who recognised the budgetary constraints of an academic institution and was willing to provide tailored solutions in this regard. Levelling Equipment Services (LES), a major Leica Geosystems distribution partner in Ireland, were selected to provide the equipment to UCC.

“Leica Geosystems were most generous in this regard, recognising the long-term merits of empowering academic institutions to educate engineers of tomorrow in modern surveying techniques. The move to robotics and in particular integration with BIM products such as REVIT, & Autodesk Civil 3D was also a key consideration.”
Kevin O’Neill | Technical Director · Levelling Equipment Services Ltd, Ireland


Training the next generation of Civil, Structural and Environmental engineers - University College Cork

Preparing students for entry into the industry

As a part of their training, students were able to use the Leica iCON iCB70, one of the most efficient manual total station for construction with integrated 4G modem. By using the iCB70, students were taught how to layout more points per day on construction projects with either prism or reflectorless measurements. Featuring mobile data capability, the iCB70 allows for the transfer of construction data between the office and the instrument directly, keeping project progress and plans constantly up to date, assuring that any changes in design in designs are not missed. Facilitating the move from conventional analogue layout methods to modern digital workflows, the iCB70 helps to achieve the productivity and accuracies demanded by the building construction industry.

In addition to the iCB70, students were also taught using the Leica iCON GPS 30, an entry-level antenna for digital construction workflows. Designed to facilitate the shift from traditional measurement methods using tapes and strings to modern digital methods, the iCON GPS 30 offered the students an easy-to-use and economical solution for their construction measurement tasks as part of their course. Being an exceptionally lightweight and compact GNSS RTK rover, the iCON GPS 30 is built with the operator in mind, providing consistently accurate positions through advanced RTK technologies. Integrated with the well-established iCON field software and tailored to typical construction workflows, the iCON GPS 30 speaks the language of construction site professionals and students alike.

LES also donated many Leica Levels and Laser Levels to further assist with the student’s development into construction professionals.

The supply of state-of-the-art equipment that students would learn to operate to prepare them for entry into the industry was a key factor in the decision from UCC to partner with LES and Leica Geosystems, along with the value for money and sponsorship, which were key in enabling UCC to educate their growing Civil Engineering classes in surveying. LES and Leica Geosystems recognised the academic needs and the restricted budget of UCC, building a package to suit their requirements and constraints, in addition to the resulting offer of sponsorship.

Other key points to the decision by UCC to implement Leica equipment were the wide adoption of the technology throughout industry, the integrated approach across various product ranges, software support for processing and modelling, excellent customer service and support, interactivity of the product demonstrations and cost.



Upon the acquisition of the equipment, UCC redeveloped their current curriculum to increase field and practical contact hours with students using the equipment. They created project-based exercises to enable students to use both survey and software solutions to replicate tasks in a real work environment, including topographic survey production using GPS, total station and AutoCAD, setting out building footprints, Civil 3D and undertaking cut fill analysis.

The team from LES and Leica Geosystems made repeat visits to UCC to assist with the setup of the equipment, as well as providing guidance on instrument selection. The team also provided excellent sponsorship of some equipment, given the academic nature of the solutions purpose. This greatly enhanced the ability of UCC to train classes of approximately 50 students in the use of surveying equipment.



“The students were very excited to be using state of the art kit for the first time. The reviews have been favourable, particularly the use of the Robotic Total Stations, and they were delighted to get sponsored hoodies from LES.”

Kevin O’Neill | Technical Director · Levelling Equipment Services Ltd, Ireland

Through the practical training they receive, students have a greater understanding of surveying using state of the art equipment and modern approaches. The value and sponsorship meant that UCC could purchase more equipment, meaning each student had more dedicated time with the given surveying technology. The solution has helped UCC to achieve more ambitious and modern learning outcomes, whilst also reducing the department’s external teaching budget.


Training the next generation of Civil, Structural and Environmental engineers - University College Cork

A view to the future

UCC will continue to utilise the equipment to educate their students, with sponsored loans of total stations on an annual basis, ensuring students get the most up to date training. They will also look to integrate more modern surveying techniques, such as drones, alongside a 3D scanner to use in BIM module exercises and research projects such as GEO BIM. The use of VR in surveying will also be explored in the coming years.

“Our experience with LES and Leica has been outstanding. The customer service is fantastic, and both parties have supported us in a number of ways including sponsorship, leading to a greatly enhanced learning experience for our students. we look forward to what will hopefully be a long and fruitful professional relationship.”

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