The idea of the Axis Transit was first conceived by Lauren Heerschap, a geology instructor in Durango, CO, while teaching field geology to college students. Like most seasoned field geologists, Lauren had learned how to use the standard Brunton transit model as a student, then used it to conduct graduate and professional field research. Teaching new generations of geology students how to use the standard transit model, however, proved quite challenging. Lauren kept wishing that transit measurement methods could be simpler and more intuitive, could visualize the planes and angles being measured, and could take measurements in one configuration without the need for mirrors and extra objects to extend surfaces.
In the fall of 2013 Lauren began sketching out ideas for a new type of transit. Her husband, David Heerschap, a high school geology and physics/engineering teacher and machinist, set out to make Lauren’s sketches a reality. They had just set up a home business called Real Science Innovations through which they had already created and sold several new and improved science teaching tools. At home in their garage over the course of the winter, David worked to create a prototype that did what Lauren had envisioned. By the spring of 2014, they had three functional prototypes that could measure planes, lines, bearings, and angles each in one simple configuration. They called the early model the Plane Sight Compass. They initiated the patent process, and in the summer Lauren took the new transit to several college field camps and had her students test it out. They barely needed instruction on how to use it, finding it far more intuitive and easy to measure with, compared to the standard models.
Lauren and David knew the greater geological community would benefit from their new model, but they also realized the limitations of their garage machine shop. They decided to approach Brunton with their idea, knowing the company was best equipped to manufacture and market the new model internationally. Lauren and David retained the patent and were involved with the entire process of design, production, and marketing of what is now the Brunton Axis Transit. They were honored to work with Brunton engineer, Hank Iden, who had been inventing and improving Brunton compasses since 1975 in the Riverton, WY facility.
Through multiple trips up to Riverton, Lauren and David fell in love with Wyoming, and they moved to Lander, WY in 2016 to help launch the Axis. They gradually became more involved with Brunton, helping assist with marketing events and educational materials for additional Brunton products. In 2018, David started working for Brunton as engineer, overlapping with Hank Iden as his health declined. David designed new products such as the Standard Transit and GeoLite Transit, then Lauren joined the team as Pro Sales Manager in 2021.
When presented with the opportunity to bring Brunton's ownership and leadership back home to Wyoming in 2021, Lauren and David knew this was something they could not pass up. They found a way to purchase the company, and it became official in November 2021. For the first time since 1894, Brunton is now female-owned, family-owned, and operated by former science educators who are passionate about the brand and excited to bring it back to its roots.