Monthly Archives: July 2008

GIS Day 2008 Promotional Flier

The new GIS Day 2008 flier is now available!  GIS Day is fast approaching on November 19th
and the new flier provides both information and inspiration for
celebrating your event.  This colorful flier encourages educators,
professionals, and students alike to participate in this global event. 
Download the flier to help you get the word out about GIS Day.

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As 3D As It Gets: Studying Paragliding Using ArcGIS Explorer

Many activities are inherently spatial in nature. Paragliding is an activity in which a person flies in a harness suspended by lines below a large fabric wing. The lack of a motor and complete dependence on the environment makes paragliders extremely sensitive to all spatial aspects of their equipment, terrain, and atmospheric conditions. The wing’s shape is formed by the pressure of air entering its front vents, and the pilot has some control over height and speed by pulling in certain ways on the lines. Air rises as the sun differentially heats ground features, while landforms force wind in different directions. The shape and elevation of the terrain over which the pilot flies, and the way in which the pilot leans affect flight speed, height, and distance. The Earth is a dynamic planet, so the unexpected can happen, but fortunately, paragliders carry an emergency parachute!

Because paragliding so completely depends on spatial relationships, it can be studied with the use of the 3-D GIS, ArcGIS Explorer. When he’s not working on our computer systems, Matt, my colleague here at ESRI, spends his time paragliding off of mountainsides around the planet. He takes his GPS receiver with him and records his track each time he flies. We uploaded his GPS track from Mount Herman, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, and used the “Import File” tool in ArcGIS Explorer to easily map his course, below. I chose one of the points to hyperlink a photograph of Matt taken by his on-the-ground crew.

A larger scale brings out the third dimension. A paraglider photo could be used instead of the airplane symbols I chose.

I placed these procedures and data in the ArcLessons library ( so that you can fly along and see what Matt saw on his flight. Analyze the land use and slope of the terrain to select the best landing site. Present certain scenarios such as a gusty wind that prevents landing in the ideal spot. What would be the best landing alternatives, and why?

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Finding Math Activities in AEJEE

At a recent conference, some teachers asked how they could address some math concepts using ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (WinXP/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool. This was a fun challenge!

The opening project of the AEJEE Tutorial (10grid_hd.axl) and a companion project (10gridpn_hd.axl) provide two handy 10×10 grids for mathematical playgrounds. The two projects use “Cartesian space”, with the first strictly in “positive space” and the second covering both positive and negative portions of the X and Y axes. Creative explorers will find interesting options just playing with coordinate systems. If the 10×10 space actually represented a 100×100 unit space on the school playground, could you map the distribution of ant colonies (etc) just with a simple X,Y table?

Of course, any analysis that gets into selection and queries opens the floodgates for math work. For instance, the opening lesson of the Tutorial asks the user to do a complex query, which is good old-fashioned set theory. Coming up with an answer to any query, the user can scroll through the results table to see what appears, click the “Statistics” button below, and generate stats about a particular field using either the whole universe or just the query results, finding count, max, min, mean, standard deviation, and total.

An earlier blog entry dealt complex math queries to identify ratios, while another explored population change by doing “math-embedded queries” to find those counties in the US which had a 5-year population decrease exceeding 1% per year. And one of the earliest blog entries covered the use of buffers to determine changing impact from alternative selections. And who could resist exploring some of the simple calculations that are possible in an exercise dealing with baseball parks — Just how far is it if a batter smacks one “out of the park”?

These are just some of the innumerable possibilities for seeing how AEJEE is a great tool for demonstrating a variety of math concepts in everyday life experience!

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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Spatial “Habits of Mind” In Practice, Part IV: A Day in the Life of A Spatial Thinker

We are considering how spatial habits of mind might manifest themselves in 15 different ways in a typical day in the life of a spatial thinker.

[12] While walking down the jetway to board the plane, you notice the amount of impervious surface that surround you on every side—runways, roads, and parking lots—extending to the horizon. You consider the increased runoff those surfaces cause, the type of chemicals present in that runoff, how it affects local and regional water quality, and what mitigation procedures are in effect. [13] You think about what kind of soil and rock were excavated to construct the airport. At Denver International Airport, for example, evidence of a Cretaceous-era swamp supporting palm and walnut trees were found in coal beds when the airport was under construction. You also consider the amount of sand and gravel aggregate that was used to create all of these impervious surfaces. Where are the gravel pits located that were mined for this aggregate? Why are they located where they are?

[14] As you search for your seat—another spatial task—you observe your fellow passengers doing the same. You can’t help but wonder how the seating areas on different airlines are calculated. Why, for example, are passengers seated along the aisle sometimes seated before passengers seated near the windows? [15] As you glance at the in-flight magazine, you read the list of cities served by the airline you are flying. You think about hub-and-spoke spatial patterns represented for this airline, what historical and locational factors gave rise to those patterns, and how these patterns might change as airlines continue to form, merge, and change.

You have thought spatially at least 15 times during your trip from your home to your place on the airplane, and now for the best part of all: I hope you requested a window seat!

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Spatial “Habits of Mind” In Practice, Part III: A Day in the Life of A Spatial Thinker

We are considering how spatial habits of mind might manifest themselves in 15 different ways in a typical day in the life of a spatial thinker.

[7] As you check in with your airline’s ticket kiosk and agent, you marvel at the hundreds of tasks and processes, ranging in scale from the geocoding of your itinerary to your destination, to the handling and routing of your baggage, to the delivery of fuel and aircraft to the correct locations, that need to occur at the right place and time in order for your flight to take place with the correct pilots, crew, passengers, and baggage. What pattern would your airplane’s GPS track over the past week show?

[8] After you proceed through security, you navigate to your concourse from the visual clues provided to your correct gate. Who made the decisions about directional signage at the airport? How useful are these navigational clues here versus at other airports? How international are these clues? [9] You pass a café. Like most eateries at an airport, this café is a part of a national chain. As you stop to look at the menu, you notice that it lists chain’s other locations. You hypothesize about the location of the chain’s headquarters based on the spatial pattern of the franchises. [10] Continuing on, you pass different shops, thinking about the decisions made at shops’ corporate headquarters in terms of what items to stock in different areas of the country. Where is the geographic dividing line, for example, between where sweet tea is served versus plain tea? What line divides where earmuffs are sold from where swimsuits are sold? Do these lines vary depending on the season?

[11] As you queue up with the other passengers, you speculate as to the geographic patterns represented by the places the other passengers live and their final destinations, and how those patterns are shaped by the flight’s departure and arrival cities.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Slimming Down a Really Big Point Data Set in AEJEE

ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (AEJEE), ESRI’s free, downloadable, dual platform (Win/MacOSX), lightweight GIS tool, comes with a series of built-in projects that allow users to explore a number of interesting topics. One of the projects is “worldtectonic_hd.axl”, which looks at earthquakes and volcanoes around the world.

The earthquake data set is 57,600 points over a five-year period. If you do a query on this many points, on some computers, it just takes a little too long to respond. Here’s a little trick that can make your life easier: slim down the number of points. You get almost the exact same pattern (and learning) with one year of points. By using just the most recent year — 2005 — you can reduce the over 57,000 to about 15,500. It’s easy to do.

Load the project and create a query about “qks20012005gt4″ (quakes from 2001-2005 that are greater than magnitude 4). Ask to find all those from 2005 by setting the query to be
“(YEARMODA > 20041231)”
(Say “Yes” when it asks if you want to see all values, in the query and in the results.) The results will be 15,536 selected. Notice that the data table includes latitude and longitude. This is good news! By clicking the “Save” (floppy disk) icon, you can save the file as a “comma separated values” file. Save it in the ESRIAEJEEDATAWORLD folder as “qks2005gt4.csv”. Then you can import it, by following the process outlines in the AEJEE Tutorial Lesson 4.

Once you have completed the change, delete the old version from the project, set the symbology, and save the project as “worldtectonic2_hd.axl”.

((Thanks for the great idea, Martin!!))

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Education Manager

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KML in ArcGIS 9.3

The ability to export maps and layers to KML files is now built into ArcGIS Desktop 9.3 for all users at all license levels using the Layer To KML and Map To KML tools in ArcToolbox. Previously, these tools were only available with the 3D Analyst extension.

Using the new HTML pop-up functionality in ArcMap, you can specify pop-ups for KML features containing attributes, URLs, or formatted Web content. The ability to define HTML pop-ups can also be found in ArcGlobe and ArcScene at 9.3.

You can put the KML files you create with these tools onto the Internet so they can be accessed in applications like ArcGIS Explorer and Google Earth. You can also load your KML files into Web maps like Google Maps (via the My Maps tab) and Microsoft Virtual Earth (via the Collections menu). This functionality provides new ways for you to share maps and data with others and tell your geographic story.

KML can be accessed directly in ArcGlobe or in the free ArcGIS Explorer 3D client. ArcMap users can add KML into their maps by accessing their content as GIS features using the ArcGIS Data Interoperability extension. A number of third-party scripts and tools for ArcGIS Desktop have also been created for importing and exporting KML files.

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Spatial “Habits of Mind” In Practice, Part II: A Day in the Life of A Spatial Thinker

We are considering how spatial habits of mind might manifest themselves in 15 different ways in a typical day in the life of a spatial thinker.

[4] The shuttle reaches the crest of a small hill, and you think about the many nearly imperceptible hills that are more important than they seem, for they may form the boundaries of drainage basins that are hundreds of square kilometers in size. [5] The land use noticeably changes as you near the airport. The cargo and commercial operators, rental car companies, hotels, convention centers, and other services together may occupy up to dozens of square kilometers. You wonder how the land use evolved over time, and what the land looked like while the airport was small, and what the native vegetation was like before the modern, and perhaps non-native, landscaping was planted. You think about how this airport’s land use differs from others around the country, and how these collectively are different from those in other countries. I will always remember, for example, the first time I flew into Gatwick Airport. As one of the busiest airports serving London and the largest single-runway airport in the world, I was amazed to find sheep grazing in a field directly across the street from the airport, something I have never seen in North America. Who made the decision to protect the open space near Gatwick, and why have those efforts failed elsewhere?

[6] You arrive at the airport and marvel at the sea of vehicles in parking lots. If you mapped the starting point for each vehicle, what would be the resulting geographic pattern? Is there any relationship between the distance traveled and the amount of time the vehicle is parked at the airport? How did people make the decision to drive instead of using a shuttle or public transportation?

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Spatial “Habits of Mind” In Practice, Part I: A Day in the Life of A Spatial Thinker

Denver International Airport terminal, photograph by Joseph Kerski.

In previous blog entries, I considered the importance of spatial thinking in education and in society, reasons for the recent increase in attention to it, and how we might conceptualize spatial thinking. According to the Learning To Think Spatially report from the National Research Council, spatially literate people need to have the “habit of mind” of knowing where, when, how, and why to think spatially. In this and the following blog, let’s explore how these habits of mind might manifest themselves in 15 different ways in a typical day in the life of a spatial thinker.

Let’s say your day will include a flight on a commercial airline. [1] You board an airport shuttle that picks you up at your home, and are faced with a spatial task: You must arrange your luggage so that it at the same time conserves space but also allows you to easily pull it out once you arrive at the airport. You also have to take note of its appearance and location relative to the luggage from the other shuttle passengers. Once underway, you drive past a street that is adjoined by many used car lots, apartment buildings that look like they were formerly old motels, and gas stations. [2] Because of this type of land use, you hypothesize that the street was, before the advent of limited access freeways, the main route into your city during the middle decades of the 20th Century. [3] Once on a freeway near the airport, you pass a rest area and wonder how long the typical person spends there, what the typical walking route would be from parking lot to rest area buildings, and what the influence of a visitors center inside the rest area and traveling with a dog might have on the time spent and the route taken by each visitor.

- Joseph Kerski, ESRI Education Manager

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Creating Spatially Enabled PDFs in ArcGIS 9.3, Part I

With the new ArcGIS 9.3, you can create some fantastic spatially-enabled PDFs for use in the new Adobe Acrobat 9 family. Depending upon how you export your map documents in ArcGIS and the version of the Acrobat 9 you use, a variety of geospatial tools and data are available to the Acrobat 9 user.

 We’ll explore a simple case here where we use the “Export Map” feature of ArcMap 9.3 (File > Export Map) and select the file type of “PDF”.  Use the default settings of the PDF for best results in the widest range of circumstances.  This process will create a new PDF that is best viewed with Acrobat 9.  Keep in mind that ESRI has issued a patch for this feature (download here).

Using the free Adobe Acrobat 9 Reader, you’ll notice a new “Geospatial Location Tool” (Tools > Analysis > Geospatial Location Tools).  Enabling this tool when viewing a PDF map will enable the display of the latitude-longitude, based on the current position of the cursor.  With the Geospatial Location Tool active, you can also right-click the map and select “Find a Location” to move your cursor to a latitude-longitude that you specify.  Note that if the spatially-enabled PDF is reviewed and saved in Acrobat 9 Professional or higher, the measurement and mark-up tools can be enabled.

With more sophisticated versions of Acrobat 9, more tools relevant to map work become available.  For example with Acrobat 9 Professional a measuring and mark-up tools are available and with Acrobat 9 Professional Extended spatially-enabled maps can be authored allowing shapefiles, GeoTiffs, and Jped 2000 files to be added to maps.  At ArcGIS 9.3, ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo are among the GIS tools that export maps to PDF.

- Tom Baker, ESRI Education Manager


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