standard Chapter 2 – From NSLSI to COGS

[ … back to chapter 1]

Town and Gown

In the early days of NSLSI and COGS, strong ties were developed between the students and the local people. There were romances and weddings between students and local families and there were lots of community events.

Phil Milo recounts (P. Milo pers. comm., 2012) the winter carnival at NSLSI. “This included a traditional ‘bed race’ between Middleton and Lawrencetown, a competition between the high school and the survey school. Also, there was an annual snow sculpture competition on the lawns of the Institute.” There were hockey games and lots of dances.
The village would provide a Christmas dinner for all COGS students and the community. This dinner continued until recently when the Health Board would not allow cooking off-site and the cafeteria was not available for the village cooks.

Most of the students boarded in the village or rented apartments, so they shopped in the community when the Co-op store and the drugstore were still there. Many local high school students went through the programs and were able to get the training they needed close to home.

At the start of every year in the 1970’s and 1980’s, several instructors would travel to high schools in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to recruit students at career fairs and classrooms, in this way the students got to meet instructors and hear about the programs and prerequisites, first hand. This practice went on until the mid 1990’s when it was taken over by NSCC student services. Graduations were big events in the communities and graduating class lists were always published in both the Middleton Mirror and the Spectator.

In 1981, under the direction of James Doig, a series of nine articles were published in the local papers. These articles describe the availability of eight different programs of one or two year duration. Various instructors outlined the new courses and the opportunities available for students in the job market should they decide to take these courses.
Jim described how “the demand for graduates continues to expand with over 200 jobs available to less than 100 graduates in 1980”.
A summary of each of the articles is included below.

Land Surveying

The survey diploma is a two-year program. In 1981, the Mirror ran two articles: one by Grant McBurney on the program, and a second by David Woolnough.

In one article entitled “Survey diploma course teaches the science of measurement” Grant McBurney described the NSLSI philosophy of a strong emphasis on a ‘hands on’ approach to learning. He championed the Lawrencetown location as providing an ideal setting for doing field work. That same year, the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors stated that “to obtain a survey commission (license) it is now almost mandatory to spend at least some time in the study of surveying at the university level.” This became formalized in the relationship between NSLSI and UNB.

The second article by David Woolnough “Satellites provide surveyors with most accurate data ever” and described the role of satellites in space in relation to the surveyor’s position on the ground and the importance of the Doppler principle. Satellite positioning is especially relevant in the North or in the location of rigs offshore.

‘The age of electronic distance measurement and the computer has allowed survey points to be placed closer together and also to be positioned faster. Students are learning to cope with the survey version of the information explosion by studying new mathematical and computational techniques.”

The one-year cartography program was described by John Belbin as the ‘blending art and science’. This program bears little resemblance to the earlier map-drafting program of the early 60’s. Before graduation, students had to devise, design and produce a completely new multi-color map from aerial photos. They generated all their own data and produced their own artwork, complete and ready for printing. John wrote that:

“in the very near future, we are looking forward to incorporating the Institute’s powerful new computer facilities into the Cartography program. This will reduce the repetitive aspect and enable us to further increase the variety of projects experienced.”


Photogrammetry is “the art, science and technology of obtaining reliable measurements of objects from their photographic images”. One of the major applications of photogrammetry is the production of topographic maps. David Morgan, instructor in the one-year program, stated

“ NSLSI is now in its twentieth year of training photogrammetric technicians. The photogrammetric technician uses the 3-dimensional image of the ground in combination with a stereo-plotter, to make precise measurements that produce a topographic map. “

NSLSI graduates find employment with private or government mapping agencies in most major cities throughout Canada.
Property Mapping

Property mapping, another one year program, was first offered at NSLSI in 1974-5 because of the demand from industry for qualified property mapping technicians. The demand was from the Land Registration and Information Services (LRIS) and Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs.

David Wedlock described how this program could equally be termed ‘ Survey Office technician’. He emphasized the practical approach to learning, the ability to conduct research in registry offices and assessment offices, and the job demand. Graduates could be found across Canada in surveying and mapping agencies.
Survey Assistant

This one-year program trained technicians who were to become part of a survey team. The program started in 1975, included a variety of practices: measuring, handling and care of technical equipment and job-related equipment, booking, office work. As survey standards continued to increase, the need for a more highly trained survey assistant became more apparent. Jack Kaulback was the lead instructor for this program.


In 1977, a two-year program at NSLSI began to train students for the technical aspects of land use planning. The job of a planner is to give advice to decision makers. The goal of the program was to produce flexible planning technicians who can work in a variety of planning offices. In 1980 discussions were underway between NSLSI and NSCAD to determine how graduates from the technician program could enter the NSCAD environmental planning program.
Remote Sensing

In 1977, John Wightman and Ernie McLaren, formerly with the Canadian Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS), initiated the Remote Sensing program. Over the next four years the program developed into a two-year diploma program with two instructors. In the first Year, students concentrated on information gathering and analysis using conventional aerial photography. In the second year, students acquired a thorough knowledge of non- photographic sensing devices e.g. radar, thermal imagery and satellite mapping.

“Satellite data is used with computer-assisted data analysis and computer mapping systems”.

The equipment was shared with the Nova Scotia Remote Sensing Centre. This Centre, which was engaged in remote sensing research, also provided summer employment for some of the students.
Scientific Computer Programming

In 1979, NSLSI conducted a survey of demand for scientific computer programmers. As a direct result, Canada Department of Manpower and Immigration and NS Department of Adult Education created the Scientific Computer Programming (SCP) program. The NSLSI installed a Prime 550 mini-computer with twenty terminals. The SCP program objectives were focused on students learning the scientific programming languages: Basic, Fortran, with exposure to Pascal, Assembler and Cobol; and an understanding of the mathematics and the statistics behind a variety of scientific applications. Another component was a project established in co-operation with government agencies and private industry. The sponsoring agencies agreed to add Business Computer Programming (BCP), starting in September (1981). This program had 24 students (BCP) in addition to the 24 students (SCP) with a total of four instructors.

As well as communicating what was happening in the programs via newspaper articles, there were attempts to reach out to the communities in the central Annapolis Valley by linking to the local municipalities. The first survey school building became the Municipal building after NSLSI moved to its current location, and historically, there were strong links between the Planning program at COGS and municipal planning in Annapolis County.

In terms of surveying, the eastern end of Annapolis County is probably one of the most surveyed geographies in Canada. Each year, a new class went out across the local landscape. Survey students were often driven out into the country to a location to complete a survey field project and picked up at the end of the day (D. Woolnough, pers. comm 2012). There was always a scramble to get students properly clothed in winter to be able to complete the fieldwork, as many came from more southern climates or were expecting indoor work (P. Milo, pers. comm. 2012).
There were the famous “Star shot “ classes held after dark to get the students up to snuff to night time navigation. (P.Milo, pers. comm. 2012)

The same relationships held true for photogrammetry and cartography, which were complementary in the early days of the ‘survey school’.

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