Learner-Shaped Technology

May 18, 2008

Costa Rica Day 3

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 3:49 pm

It’s Weds. morning before 8 am and already incredibly hot and steamy. Today is going to be a scorcher. The power died this morning, so I’ll have to type quickly on battery power. Yesterday morning (Tuesday) we hiked the Firestone reserve property taking the North trail along the boundary of the property. We hiked along the river to the waterfall (see flickr pics) and then up the trail for a steep 1,000 ft ascent to the ridge where we met up with the team geocoding the numerous petroglyphs on the site. I took a few snapshots of the petroglyphs, and I think the running total for this ancient rock art is now over 50 on the 300 acre property. Bamboo was planted back when the property was pasture, and it’s really taking over up top. Right now contractors are cutting and treating the wood on site for use in local sustainable building initiatives to keep growth in check. We climbed the bamboo ‘tree fort’ and looked at several petroglyphs while on the ridge, then caught a ride down the mountain with the contractor.


The station was abuzz with student researchers, one of whom described her research to study the impact of the clearing effort on the thickness of remaining bamboo growth. She cautioned about the many snakes she’d seen that morning and commented, “Geez, I hate snakes”. Lunch was great. I’m getting hooked on fresh mango and pineapple.

After lunch Warren went over some GIS information, and we learned some surveying techniques using compass bearings and inclination measurements. It really takes a steady hand and some patience to get good readings. After that we surveyed a loop on the property and then ran the data through COMPASS software to determine our loop closure error which was less than 2%. Not too shabby! Travis did a great job with measurements.

Back to the property for dinner, a little more GIS instruction, and a great slideshow from Keith and Don (the bat experts) on some visits to caves in Panama. I was going to run on the beach this morning and opted for an extra hour of sleep instead. Determined to try tomorrow am, my last chance, I think.

Today we stay on the Haciendu Baru to survey in the lowlands, so we can connect to the Firestone surveys. That means hot and buggy and no internet, since we only get that at the Firestone station. I’m anxious to gather real rather than practice data. I had a quick Skype conversation with Susannah before the kids got out of school, and it worked pretty well. I miss her and the kids a lot and am bummed that it will be another day before I can communicate with them in any shape or form.

Man, it’s hot today, and it’s not even 9 am. More tomorrow. More pics from Tuesday added to flickr. Check ’em out.

May 13, 2008

Costa Rica Day 2

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 3:15 pm

We’re now at the Hacienda Baru, after a long, bone-jarring and motion-sickness-inducing ride down the mountain and past palm oil plantations. I posted pictures on my flickr account which includes a shot of one of the oil palm processing plants along the route.

The cabins are nice with loads of fans to take the edge off the damp afternoon heat.

We got in late afternoon but still had time for a quick hike in the property. It’s beautiful. We hiked down to the Pacific ocean as the sun was starting to set and hiked back using flashlights while within the canopy. It was still light enough outside the canopy that we didn’t need artificial light. There were quite a few bats buzzing us on the walk back and apparently this is the trail where they saw a fer-de-lance last year. Nothing this time – phew!. See flickr for photos from the hike.

beach 1

After dinner on the property, we headed back to the cabins. On the way we saw two large frogs. We got so into tracking down the frogs that we failed to realize we were standing on an ant hill (probably the frog’s source of food). Once the biting began, we quickly realized we were covered in ants and started the appropriate swatting and dancing routine until the little buggers were gone. Ouch.

Got up around 5 am and starting composing email and the blog, so that I could make the most of internet time today, if we get it. Off to the Firestone Preserve to check out the property and start GIS training in the afternoon.

Oh, I almost forgot. Check out the crocs we saw at lunch. They’re huge!

May 12, 2008

Arrived in Costa Rica

Filed under: costa rica,general,gis,mapping,science — Mike W @ 10:26 am

Arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica last night and walked around for a short time this morning. We leave in a few minutes for the coast to start our mapping of the area between the Firestone Preserve and the Hacienda Baru. Off to view some crocodiles. Here are a few quick pics from outside the hotel in San Jose.

san jose 1san jose 2

April 5, 2008

Concept Map Software Demo – CmapTools

Filed under: concept maps,data visualization,demo,general,science,technology — Mike W @ 8:56 am

CMapTools is concept map software which is available free for educational use. I created a quick demo of some of the main features. I especially like the support for mulitmedia objects.

super hero small

Oops! See this 60 sec correction / tip for saving space in your concept map.

Of course, there are many academic uses, but the above superhero example is kind of a fun intro (see more detailed, finished super hero map here). For example, the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College has some great information on using concept mapping in the geosciences.

January 19, 2008

Science Projects and the NFL

Filed under: education,football,general,science — Mike W @ 6:47 pm

eyeblack experiment The upcoming NFL matchup between the Packers and the Giants on the frozen tundra of Lambeau field this Sunday helped my youngest daughter design an experiment for her upcoming science fair project. She’s been studying heat, so we’ve been discussing what Green Bay fans can do, if anything, to stay somewhat warm during the game.

I’ll share more details once we have data, but it’s the second NFL-inspired project we’ve undertaken in the last few years. The strange picture above was taken during experiments carried out by my oldest daughter when she was in second grade. We were wrestling with science fair project ideas and took a break to watch football when she asked, “Dad ,why do they wear that black stuff under their eyes?”. A visit to the wig shop (for the styrofoam head) and the sporting goods store, along with a borrowed light meter, provided the raw materials.

indoor eyeblack

We didn’t see a difference indoors or outdoors in the amount of light entering the eye, but she conjectured that the light meter doesn’t have the same kind of peripheral vision that we do. She didn’t use those exact words of course.

While we were experimenting, Ricky Proehl (pictured below), then wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers (and fellow Wake grad, I might add), was signing autographs at a nearby sporting goods store. My daughter took the opportunity to ask him a few questions, since he wears eye black. He admitted that there might be a bit of habit and superstition involved, but he felt it really helped him see better, especially indoors. He was really friendly and patient and seems to be a great a guy. We added the eye black with photoshop.

Ricky Proehl

More formal studies seem to suggest it helps with glare and contrast sensitivity and that the grease is better than the stickers. Plus it looks tough! That’s the real reason I wore it while playing high school baseball, since my hitting wasn’t going to impress any girls. I even remember swiping grime out of the tail pipe of my car before one game because I ran out. Gross.

Go Packers! With wind chills way below zero, light glare is going to be the least of the players’ worries this weekend.

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