Monthly Archives: March 2008

ESRI Development Centers (EDC)

The new ESRI Development Center (EDC) program provides recognition and special status to university departments that have exemplary, advanced programs focused on educating students to design and develop GIS applications using ESRI’s ArcGIS desktop or server technology. This can include programs that help students advance and extend ESRI’s ArcGIS software or provide training in system integration, integrate computer science and IT into GIS programs and application development within a particular domain.  Students enrolled in EDC programs will be given special access to ESRI software and have opportunities to be recognized for their accomplishments. For an Application and more details about qualifications and benefits see  For questions about the program contact

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Exploring Pop Change With AEJEE

Back in October, I posted a blog entry about doing complex math queries using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool. Here’s a recent example, demoed at the ASCD conference.

I used the built-in project “us_hd.axl” and changed the state and county layers to show population in 2005. Then, I wanted to see the pop change from 2000-2005. That was easy: Create a query on the counties layer where “(POP2005 < POP2000)”. Showing all counties indicated that 1147 counties lost population during those five years, a remarkable swath across the South, Midwest, and Plains states. But I wanted to see which counties were hit particularly hard, with a decrease over 5% during those five years. That required a query where “(((POP2005 – POP2000) / POP2000) * 100) < -5″. It took me a minute to verbalize the right calculation, and AEJEE barely a second to highlight the results.

The 193 counties in yellow show a significant decline. A similarly stunning pattern results when you display the 365 counties where the change is “> 10″ over the period.

GIS is a power tool for highlighting patterns, and AEJEE’s analytical capacity allows this little free tool to demonstrate the power of “on-the-fly analysis”.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Using Callout Labels in ArcMap

The ArcMap application within ArcGIS allows you to create an amazing variety of fonts, colors, and types of labels that identify point, line, and area features. One of the most useful types of labels is the callout label. This label “calls out” from the label to an off-site location that is typically not on the feature itself, and sometimes helps make maps that are more clearly understood by students. Consider the following example for a lesson I created about the Philippines. Here, if the labels were placed on the islands, they would obscure the data I wanted the students to explore, which was the human development index by administrative area (province). Therefore, I used callout labels so that they would be offset in the ocean.

How did I create these labels? Under the Layer Properties, under Labels, I selected a “Banner” style label. Under Properties for the banner style, I selected Properties once again, and then bumped up the x offset to 45 and the y offset to 30. You will have to experiment with your own data set for the optimal offset, depending on your map units and the feature shapes that you wish to label. I set the colors for the background and for the text.

I did something else to create the above labels. Many provinces are split up into hundreds of islands. To prevent every single island from receiving a label, I accessed the Placement Properties tool under the Label tab in the Layer Properties. Under Duplicate Labels, I indicated that I wanted only one label per feature:

You can also use the label tool in the draw toolbar to create interactive text labels as callout boxes, as shown below:

After remembering sticking sticky-back callout labels on maps way back in cartography’s manual days with an Xacto knife, these ArcGIS tools show the progress that has been made over the past 25 years!

I invite you to explore label placement to help the maps do what they are designed to do—to communicate!

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Using Image Icons With AEJEE

On Friday, Joseph Kerski posted a great blog about using image icons in ArcView. I wondered if I could do the same thing using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool. Turns out it’s pretty simple for “the little GIS software that could!”

It’s actually quite easy. First, a couple of rules: icons can be only GIF or JPG, and they only show in one size — their native size — so you have to prep the icon in the size desired using a graphics program, which is also where you need to set any transparency. Also, AEJEE only allows this under “single symbol” operation for point or polygon fill. As long as you can live with that, you’re in good shape!

Using the above strategy, I copied the “Zoom to All Layers” globe from the toolbar, made the edges transparent in my graphics package, and saved it as a GIF file. Then I opened the “us_hd.axl” project, zoomed into Louisiana, and changed the cities to be my test image. Voila!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Using Pictures for Marker Symbols

ArcMap comes with thousands of point, line, and area symbols for you to use. Point marker symbols include two- and three-dimensional points covering geology, environmental, buildings, trees, weather, and more. However, did you know that you can create your own symbols as well? One of the most helpful types of point markers in education is a picture point. Consider the example below from a lesson where students compare the radio stations broadcasting Kansas City Royals baseball games versus those broadcasting games of the St Louis Cardinals. The lesson asks students to consider the size and shape of the two catchment areas in relationship to each team, to each other, and to other teams. To give students a clear view of the locations of the stations broadcasting each team throughout the lesson, I created marker symbols for the Royals, for the Cardinals, and a baseball representing the team location.

To create these picture marker symbols, I first downloaded the Royals, Cardinals, and baseball images from the Internet and converted them to BMP. Next, in the symbol selector window, I selected Properties to access the symbol property editor. I changed the type to “picture marker symbol,” browsed to my Royals picture, and resized it, as follows:

The editor allows you to resize or rotate the photograph so it will be “just right” for your application.

Symbols are stored in a “style” library that is stored under “Documents and Settings” > Your user name > Application data > ESRI > ArcMap. However, you can copy and store it wherever you wish. Use the style manager, located under “Tools > Styles” to create, modify, and manage your symbols. If you need to share your customized symbols for others to edit, you can send the style file along with your MXD and your data sets. When others access ArcMap, they can load this style manager by accessing the Symbol Selector window. However, they won’t need your style file simply to use your symbols. The style symbol set gets saved with your MXD!

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Looking for a summer job? Internships and UC Assistantships available

ESRI is looking for students who love GIS to join us for the summer. ESRI has an internship program and an assistantship program for the ESRI International User Conference (UC).

Internships are available in a number of departments, including software development, educational services, marketing, or GIS services. Most positions are at ESRI headquarters in Redlands, CA and last 12 weeks.

Additional information, including profiles of former interns and application instructions are available at Deadline to apply is March 14, 2008.

The User Conference Assistantship program offers an opportunity to participate in the ESRI User Conference, August 4-8, in San Diego, CA. Students assist ESRI staff with jobs such as registration, logistics, and monitoring sessions, and in return receive conference registration, hotel accommodations, and a small stipend for meals.

Additional information, including application instructions is available at Deadline to apply is May 9, 2008.

- Angela Lee, ESRI Education Manager

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Trolling for Data for Use With AEJEE

Over the last several months, I have presented some interesting websites with data that can be used with GIS tools such as ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE) , ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool. AEJEE can consume data from ArcIMS sources, and there are thousands of these. But not everything that anybody might want is online. How can you find good ones for you? Check out the “ArcIMS Data Services” page on the ESRI EdCommunity site. This site features some good sources.

But you can often find sources for your own local area or special topic of interest just by doing a generic internet search. In your favorite Internet search engine, type three words or phrases: “GIS”, “data”, and your topic or place of interest. Using this strategy, you may find many interesting sites to visit. Sometimes, you can see an address like (use your county and your state). Sometimes you can just fire up AEJEE, choose to add an internet server, plug in the address, and see what happens.

Using the above strategy, I found my county had a server online with a nice street network plus air photos and various other sources. In this case, I needed to set AEJEE’s map units to meters and zoom in a bit to see things. Then I made the orthophoto translucent and navigated my way around the county. Teachers could further customize with their own local data. Lots to explore!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Investigating Historic and Current Population in Utah and Beyond

How can GIS help students and researchers to visualize population change? In 32 pages containing 100 questions, a new lesson in the ESRI ArcLessons library ( provides examples of this visualization by inviting inquiry into the dynamics of historic and current population. Students analyze the reasons for settlement in Utah and its impact. The lesson provides a model that can easily be applied to investigate other states, administrative areas, or countries.

Population change map that students create, with counties of higher population growth from 1990 to 2000 in percentage change in blues; counties with slower growth in greens and yellows.

Guiding questions for the lesson include: What is the spatial pattern of population by county and city in Utah? What are the historical and modern-day reasons for these spatial patterns? Did counties grow at different rates in the past? What factors account for these variations? How do demographic characteristics within counties vary? Why do these similarities and differences exist?

The lesson takes advantage of the graphing function within ArcGIS to help students understand change over time, a key geographic concept.

One of the graphs students create in the lesson, showing population change between 1980, 1990, and 2000, after which they analyze articles discussing the factors fueling Washington County’s rapid population growth.

Another section of the lesson asks students to study the location and population of the territorial capital of Utah (Fillmore) and speculate why the capital was moved to Salt Lake City.

Students are also presented with this scenario: You are interested in moving to beautiful Utah. You would like to live in an area that is within 100 km of Lake Powell, within 20 km of a national forest, and in a county with less than 3,000 people, so you can enjoy the solitude.

Students perform a number of analytical functions including selection, buffer, intersect, erase, and identity to arrive at the above answer: The coral-colored polygons meet all of the students’ criteria of where they would like to live.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Using ArcGIS Explorer for GLOBE At Night

If you’ve been participating in this year’s GLOBE At Night campaign, you might be aware that this year you can download and view the entire 2008 dataset into ArcGIS Explorer!  Unlike the webmap or any previous year, the dataset for ArcGIS Explorer is updated in real-time, meaning your data (and everyone else’s) is included.

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US48 Weather Viewed with AEJEE

The return of spring to the “temperate” zones of the US often means some wild weather, depending on where you’re located. Thanks to folks at NOAA, NWS, and PASDA (Pennsylvania State Data Access), it’s very easy to create and save a project that presents a “quick and dirty” view of the atmosphere, using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool.

Open an empty AEJEE map window, choose to add data from the Internet (as described in the Lesson 5 of the built-in AEJEE Tutorial), and navigate to the PASDA data portal ( Add the “Latest Infrared Satellite” for the bottom layer, add the “Latest Radar” for the top layer, and set the radar layer at 75% transparent. Save the project. Then, any time you re-open the project while connected to the Internet, you’ll see the latest conditions.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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