The Day I Realized My Internship Mentor is Freaking Awesome

So as I sit in the airport trying to get to New York for Fall Break, I’m wondering why in the world I left the comfort of the Outer Banks. Seriously, this sucks. I’m also reminiscing on the past week and figured I’d spill the beans on how freaking cool my internship was on Monday.

My mentor, John McCord, took pity on me, and my inability to do anything technological, and brought me along with himself, Nathan Richards (another super smart, super cool guy), and two graduate students for a trip to take pictures of a shipwreck on the beach. My thoughts- best mentor EVER. What I didn’t realize was just how cool his job and research are.


One words ladies and gents: photogrammetry.



Now, I dunno about you, but I had no freaking idea what photogrammetry is. Technical term for instagramming photos? Not quite.Turns out, John can take hundreds of pictures and create a 3D model of the shipwreck.

Insert: collective eyebrow raises and murmurs of being super impressed

The process for getting ready to make the model was actually fairly simple. We placed coded targets (each one has a certain design on it that makes them distinguishable from the others) around the shipwreck and took pictures from different angles at each target. John flew an unmanned aerial vehicle (aka kind of like a drone but don’t call it that around John) to capture the shipwreck from above. Once we took around 200 pictures, a software program was able to build the shipwreck from the ground up by finding common points in each of the pictures and molding them together. Kind of like a really weird puzzle. Except way cooler and more intense…


We had a huge crowd around us by the end of it because who wouldn’t be super curious about a remote controlled helicopter-type thing flying around? It sounded like a Star Wars movie. And the crazy thing is that the entire process took less than an hour. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Science is so cool.

John and Nathan are actually the first people to try this off the coast of North Carolina so like yeah, they’re pretty friggan awesome. The potential for what these models can be used for is also incredible. By going back to these sites repeatedly, researchers will be able to see how fast these wrecks are being buried, built back up, or affected by humans. Which will be a huge help to conservationists trying to manage these sites. So if you’re a history lover, your day just got a million times better.

So, yeah. Learned how to use a camera and learned how cool my mentor was in like 2 hours. Plus I got to admire technology from afar, which is pretty much the extent of my good relationship with all things electronic. Day well spent if I must say so myself. Thank you OBXFS!

XOXO   A student that’s feeling pretty freaking excited about life/the beach/fun stuff

Published by

Cinnamon Moore

UNC Inst for the Environment