Sabbatical report, rest of weeks 9 and 10, and spring break week in the mineral and fossil catacombs

Whew, the data entry, checking and editing are largely done and procedures written for adding in more materials.  Perhaps a better way to think of the sabbatical progress to date is to consider a new house under construction,.  The structure is built, the roof is on, doors hung, windows in,  siding is up, and the electrical and plumbing are installed but not inspected.  The house is liveable, but there is a bit to go yet before it becomes a home.

All three objectives of the sabbatical are met.  But all three objectives still need polish to become truly functional and autonomous, meaning user-friendly.  Several thousand lines of data are compiled, more than a thousand pictures are shot, and the software interfaces are in place.  The roles of the various software can be summarized as follows:

data collection   Excel:  data entry and compilation, verification and text output

data reduction and analysis   Google Earth Pro: data input via Excel text files, geo-editing, geo-locating, and KML generation

data display, inquiry and outreach  Layered Earth: KML display in a data-rich and visually enhanced setting

Please watch the new YouTube video showcasing the touchtable!

( if it doesn’t appear try this URL

Sabbatical report, weeks 7 & 8 (plus a little of 9)

I do not have much to report, unless I were to describe the daily sweat of chasing down and polishing everything.

In the heavy lifting department all the Ryan Museum specimens are plotted on the globes of Google Earth and The Layered Earth.  I have started better location resolution of the specimens using a variety of other data sources to pin down locations more precisely.   United State Geological Survey maps are readily available in KML format for all states and CONUS.  Data proofing audits are started.  Interface development is underway and data entry and edit programs are being refined.

Still to go are the guestbook, locations of specimens in the Museum, specimen images, and external links to more information, such as

Whew, do I have enough to do?   Yes, but what a rewarding project.  I expect to have some middle school student in the Museum in early April to do some beta-testing of the table

Next update will have some YouTube videos of touch table operations.

Sabbatical report – Weeks 5 and 6

Two weeks are combined here, since week 5 was short.  I attended a Board of Trustees meeting in Denver

Huge breakthroughs were made with the software interfaces on the touch table.  Nearly all of the Ryan data were successfully brought into both Google Earth and The Layered Earth.  The folks at the Spitz Institute and Simulation Curriculum provided me with detailed and elegant ways of adding KML/KMZ data to TLE.  Google Earth Pro is able to import spreadsheets with position data.  I now have points on the touch table that show locations of the  Ryan Museum specimen for the US.  Furthermore, I am able to show geology at many different levels of detail, draped on the topography with the sample locations.  The USGS online map catalog is the Mother Lode of KML geology!  Virtual field trips are now a reality.

Caveats:  While the breakthroughs are huge, I am running up against data limitations.  Nearly all  of the  specimens do not have exact positions but instead have general area localitions, e.g., Missouri or Pakistan.  The simple resolution will be assigning the sample position to the center of the  locality.  In other words any sample from Missouri will be plotted right in the middle of the state temporarily.  I have centroid data of every state and country in the world and am nearly done tying the position data to localities.

Heavy lifting next:  1) get all the specimens plotted, 2) start better location resolution of the specimen using other data like age, mines, etc., 3) proofing all of the data, and 4) interface development and refining.

On the horizon: The guestbook, Museum locations and images, external links to more information, such as

Whew, do I have enough to do?




Sabbatical report, Week 4

I am very familiar with Microsoft Excel from many years of drill hole and geochemical data analysis work.  But I really learned to appreciate the more subtle tricks for combining many disparate data sets into a common data set during the last week.   At this time, there are two data sets, one each for fossils and minerals.  I wrestled with combining all the data into a single data set, but found that minerals and fossils have just enough data type differences  make the single data set idea not particularly workable.  For example, fossils often have a detailed Linnaen classification and environmental association, whereas minerals tend more toward structural description.  However, both data sets have a common unique identifier field for joining and linking purpose.

Ryan Museum minerals and fossils each have their own specific existing data styles.  ASU fossil collections, mineral collections, and the Wards Scientific sets also have their own specific existing data styles, often in multiple formats and organization styles.  I have many of my own personal ore deposit mineral suites, which yet again have numbering and data organization schemes different than all of the other collections!

I made progress this week on developing a map-based guest book, with the help of Brad Sosusco.  We experimented briefly with various map engines and forms to allow guests to sign in, and have a map pin appear at their home town.

New LED shelf lights are ready to be installed.  The older, hotter, and more energy-intensive halogen lights are stacked up and off line.

The TLE, GEPro, and ArcGIS technology is in place.  The underlying mineral and fossil data are in place.  The Ideum touch table is in place.  The next crux is the spatial connection among everything.  I believe all the pieces are in place.

Back to the catacombs…

Sabbatical Report, week 3

Database work is moving along nicely.  I have huge amounts of data in various formats, but I believe I have now trimmed down and distilled to just two structures that will work for all of the Ryan Museum specimens and the program teaching collections.  Using the data in ArcGIS will not be difficult with these two structures.  Perhaps I am showing naive optimism.

Google Earth Pro is now installed.  Use of GE Pro will make location work considerably more effective for “virtual” ground-truthing of specimen data.

The video below shows the star program of the Ideum touch table, The Layered Earth!  Imagine being able to call up the geographic location and other details about the fossil specimens in the background!  That ability is not available yet, but getting closer, whew.


Sabbatical Report, Week 2

Both software and hardware major developments occurred this week!

The major hardware developments occurred with the touch table.  I upgraded the OS  to Windows 8 to take advantage of the native touch applications  in that system.    Dual- monitor workstations for application development are up and running with Windows 8 and Windows 7.   The Windows 8 workstation uses an Intuous touch pad in addition to standard keyboard and mouse inputs.  The big advantage of the three systems of touch table, W8 and W7 workstations is that I am able to blend and test a wide variety of inputs with a number of related software packages.  Related software packages include The Layered Earth, ArcGIS 10.2, Gestureworks suite,  and the ubiquitous MS Office apps and internet browsers.

The major software developments center on finalizing the software applications that offer the most potential for realizing the three goals of the sabbaticalThe Layered Earth (TLE) is working beautifully on the touch table.  I spent considerable amounts of time looking at TLE data structure, and I should be able to create custom datasets from existing collection data without too much difficulty.  The very large caveat is that I have not yet actually created any custom datasets!  Gestureworks and ArcGIS will be used extensively.  Other software may be used .  These three applications are going to be the heavy lifters for the time being.   The data and software interoperability will be facilitated with Python 2.7 as a common scripting language.  Python seems to work well with HTML, KML, and GML protocols.

The stage and sets are close to being complete.  Now it is time for the  scripts and application to write the play for the Museum specimens and planetarium to perform.

More next week from the Ryan Museum Catacombs!

Sabbatical Report, Week 1

The project has started; the project proposal is now on its way to becoming reality.

I spent the first week staying busy with assembling and assessing hardware function and capability,  and re-inventorying and refreshing existing datasets.

Hardware:  The touch table is up and running in the Museum.  The ubiquitous duct tape stripes are covering cables while I figure out the table’s  final location and configuration.  If you would like to see the touch table manufacture’s website look here ->

Software:  I evaluated a considerable amount of the software bundled with the touch table.  At this time, I am reviewing the functionality and  adaptability of the software.   I am still not completely clear on how I am going to interface existing data, planetarium software and touch screen software.  Google Earth, Microsoft Planet, The Layered Earth, and some utility packages produced some spectacular results on the touch table.   I looking forward to trying out ArcGIS  and Gestureworks next.  I am most excited about the possibilities that The Layered Earth software offers.

I am also considering operational design.   How will Museum visitors actually work with the table?  What sort of challenges will they face?  What will be the best balance of operational ease and functionality?

More next week from DeepGeekSpace!