Discover Your Island

High School Student Explores New Terrain with the Conrad Blucher Institute

August 10, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Summer is traditionally a period for high school students to take a break from learning, but for Marisol Rodriguez, summer is a time to take her research skills to a whole new level.

Last summer, Rodriguez, a junior at Corpus Christi’s School of Science and Technology, spent time under the wings of the faculty in the Department of Engineering at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where she discovered her love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This summer, she decided to work at the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science (CBI) as a student research assistant. During her time at the CBI, she immersed herself in understanding new technologies like Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), a remote sensing method used to examine the surface of the Earth.

“Marisol is progressing rapidly in understanding LiDAR here at the Conrad Blucher Institute,” said James Rizzo, Assistant Director of the CBI. “Having a student so enthused about learning really makes teaching fun and seeing her excitement in learning something new makes it all worthwhile.”

Rodriguez says that being able to work with machines at the CBI is a dream come true.

“I love engineering and anything involving computers,” she said.

Throughout the summer, Rodriguez has learned how to work with LiDAR software, GPS referencing and gained real-world experience by assisting with the development of a portable LiDAR backpack. The LiDAR backpack allows a person to perform scans while simply walking through any terrain. To make the system versatile and mobile, Rodriguez combined a hiking backpack frame and a platform that supports the LiDAR scanner components. 

Although combining mobility with LiDAR is usually performed by mounting scanners on drones and vehicles, mounting a scanner on a backpack is relatively new. Unlike other mobile scanner systems, the LiDAR backpack allows the user to scan areas not accessible to motorized vehicles.

“Using the LiDAR backpack lets users traverse areas likes the Padre Island National Seashore dunes or Texas coast marshes,” explained Rizzo.

Looking back at her time working with the CBI faculty and staff, Rodriguez says that everyone was always excited to work with her.

“Everyone here is helpful and encourages me to try new ideas,” she said. “It makes me more interested in continuing to learn about the STEM fields.”

The CBI is responsible for innovative research and developing technological solutions relevant to surveying, scientific measurements and to the issues in the Gulf of Mexico region. To learn more about the CBI, visit cbiweb.tamucc.edu