photo of Purdue Northwest surveying team Quinton Pender
[The champion Purdue Northwest surveying team; from left, Dylan Barthel, Natalia Briggs, Quinton Pender, and Krish Zalavadia.

Quinton Pender couldn’t lie. There was some pressure.

He was captain of the championship-winning University of Purdue Northwest surveying team in 2023. So, the 2024 team he was leading should repeat the feat and win again, right?

“I think we set up a lot of hype and expectations for ourselves,” Pender said. “And that carried with us to the finals in Utah. But then once the rubber hit the road for us, we really focused.”

Turns out the pressure only produced more excellence. The Purdue Northwest team of Pender, Dylan Barthel, Natalia Briggs, and Krish Zalavadia took first place at the ASCE UESI Surveying Society-Wide Competition finals in June during the 2024 ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships this weekend at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Back-to-back champs.

“The competition this year was fierce, and the tasks were definitely taken up a notch,” Pender said. “So we were elated. We were very overjoyed that we had been able to pull it off again. It was really, really great.”

Purdue Northwest took first in the field task category, followed by Penn State, University Park, and Clemson. Meanwhile, Utah State University won the topographic and presentation category, followed by Cal Poly Pomona in second and Clemson in third.

Clemson was second in the overall standings behind Purdue Northwest; Penn State, University Park took third.

Clearly, the teams came to Utah to win. It’s a competition, after all. But one of the cool things that’s developed early in this surveying competition’s brief history is a sense of camaraderie among the teams. Perhaps it’s the kinship of students pursuing an often-underappreciated discipline.

“It’s such a great learning experience, for sure, getting your hands dirty in this stuff and actually being able to perform these tasks is really helpful for understanding surveying,” Pender said. “This is just an almost completely unrecognized branch of civil engineering that a lot of people mostly don't even know about. And it’s very, very fun.”

So the teams work together even as they compete. The Purdue Northwest students were happy to share some of the wisdom gleaned last year during their championship run. Pender even drew up a diagram for a fellow team to give them an idea of what to expect.

“There’s always something to learn and a helping hand definitely makes a difference to people,” Pender said. “We were asked a lot of questions from other teams during the topographical showcase, and I was always very adamant to try and help as much as I could.”

photo of Purdue Northwest surveying team Quinton Pender
Krish Zalavadia and the Purdue Northwest surveying team repeated as finals champs.

The Purdue Northwest team also worked to help pay its way out to the finals in Utah, enlisting the help of sponsors DLZ, Torrenga Surveying LLC, ISPLS NW Chapter, ISPLS Foundation, and the ASCE Northwest Indiana Branch. The ASCE UESI Surveying Competition is still relatively new but growing fast.

“Surveying is kind of a mixture of both hands-on and theory,” Pender said. “You have your design, where you do a lot of calculations; you do a lot of theory; there’s an artistic aspect needed to make something look good and be easy to understand for people. And when you’re talking about a plot of land, there’s the hands-on part of going into the field, collecting the information, performing the calculations on hand, and putting all that into practical use.

“I’m really glad ASCE made it one of the three Society-wide competitions so we can spread the word more. I'm really excited to see we had 92 teams regionally this year. Absolutely insane.”

And for Pender, who is set to graduate next year, the back-to-back Purdue Northwest championship success has helped inspire a potential career. He’s working this summer at a land surveying firm.

“I love the work,” Pender said. “You know, I think about that saying every day: ‘If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I’m very fortunate to have found something like that with land surveying.

“It’s definitely not the easiest job in the world, so that makes me feel good that I can really sink my teeth into something and properly showcase my skills and my understanding. It’s really nice.

“So I think my future holds more land surveying, and I’m very excited for it.”

The ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships was made possible with funding from the ASCE Foundation.

Learn more about the 2024 ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships.