Camp hosts the first in-person Engineering classes after 17-month hiatus

The first students to arrive in the new HCAT Bunkhouse at U of T Camp on Saturday, August 14, 2021, explore their room. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

Stepping off a bus to set foot on the ground isn’t usually considered a historic event, but it’s exactly what CivMin students accomplished Saturday with their arrival at Survey Camp.

“It’s great to see you all for in-person classes, and not just see black boxes on a screen,” remarked Prof. Evan Bentz at the beginning of his Survey course.

No in-person Engineering courses have been held since Friday, March 13, 2020, making the arrival of students on Saturday, August 14, just over 17 months afterwards, the first to attend in-person classes. The annual pilgrimage of CivMin students to the U of T Survey Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., for the course Civil and Mineral Practicals – aka CAMP, known formally as CME358 – was suspended last year due to the pandemic.

CivMin students listen to Prof. Lesley Warren (right) discuss water sample collection methods, while aboard the boat Sir Veyor on Gull Lake, as part of their studies at U of T Survey Camp on Sunday, August 15, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)
CivMin students use a Total Station for surveying as part of their studies at U of T Survey Camp on Sunday, August 15, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)
A COVID rapid test, with negative result, at Survey Camp on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

Given the ongoing global pandemic, numerous steps have been undertaken to ensure the safety of all participants. Precautions taken include ensuring all attendees had already received a COVID vaccination, and with all students receiving a COVID rapid test before being allowed to board the bus from U of T’s St. George campus to Gull Lake. Those arriving independently receive a rapid test as well, before being allowed to fully access the grounds. Additional testing of students is to be ongoing throughout their week-long stay, with masks compulsory indoors and when physical distancing is not possible outdoors. Further, keeping males and females in separate cohorts, as well as keeping to working groups of the same three or four individuals throughout the week.

Another first at Survey Camp is the outdoor dining tent, which many claim is a far better alternative than the usual indoor experience, hoping to retain the new experience for future years.

Three condensed one-week sessions are planned instead of the usual two two-week sessions held in previous years. Students undergo class and field assignments in Surveying and Systems, which involves environmental data collection methods.

“Be sure to thank the Dean, if you wind up attending a ‘Coffee with Chris’ or meeting him this fall,” proclaimed Prof. Lesley Warren to her students attending the class who go out on Gull Lake to take water samples, and to streams to measure flow, pollution and more. “The funding we needed¬† for our boat, equipment and everything, came from the Dean’s Strategic Fund (DSF).” The ability to assess water and think about how to incorporate water resources into sustainable engineering design is a component of the study at Survey Camp.

An aerial view of the new buildings at U of T Survey Camp on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

A highlight for this first session at Survey Camp, known as Camp 1, is doubly historic as this is the first class of students to use and sleep in the new HCAT Bunkhouse and also enjoy new washroom and shower facilities. With single word reviews spoken aloud as the students entered the building, many utterances of nice, wow and cool were heard.

In the morning, rave reviews of warm bedrooms, despite the chilly night temperatures, and the spacious private shower rooms were conveyed.

Readying the newly built facilities was down to the wire, with the contractor crew finishing Friday evening and cleaning commencing very early the morning of expected arrivals on Saturday.

With students back to in-person classes at Survey Camp, it’s hoped experiences learned will benefit September’s back-to-school for the entire Faculty.

By Phill Snel.