Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mapping Nobel Prize Winning Women

After the recent passing of author Doris Lessing (1919-2013) I became curious how many women have received the Nobel Prize since 1901. Not that many I have come to discover. Of the 851 individual Laureates, 45 have been women, or roughly 5%. According to, 25 organizations have been awarded the Nobel Prize, as well. Examples of organizations include Bangladesh's Grameen Bank (2006), Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, 1999), Amnesty International (1977), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF, 1965).

The connection between education for women and girls and economic progress and development is clear. Investments in education for women and girls in developing and underdeveloped countries results in positive economic and social progress. Around the world, from the United States to Africa and Southwest Asia, investment in education, and especially STEM education, improves wages, improves health care, reduces child mortality, and increases political action and commitment.

My hopes are the map may help inspire people to improve the recognition of the contributions of women throughout all segments of global society. 

Click "Legend" to open the map's legend. The pins are color-coded by the Nobel award, green for chemistry, red for physics, silver for economics, and so forth. Click on a pin and the information for a particular Nobel winner will appear. When the window opens, scroll to the bottom. I added a link to the winner's entry on and used a link to their entry for a picture, if one was available. I assigned the colors, by the way. The interactive map above was created from a simple spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet is very simple to create. A little forethought must be given to how the data is organized. As I tell my students, you don't have to be an expert in the topic, but you do have to understand how to organize information. In this case, I mapped the winners by their place of birth. However, in many cases, the winners did not their award in their home country. Before and during World War Two, a mass exodus of people from Western, Central, and Eastern Europe occurred in advance of Nazi Germany influence. In some cases, the location does not note the place of birth but the country of residence at the time of the award. This special circumstance might make for an interesting lesson plan for middle or high school students, by the way. Both men and women Nobel Prize awards for the 1940's exhibited considerably disruption due to the war.

As the above spreadsheet illustrates, nothing fancy is going on. Year, Winner's Name, City, Country, Prize Category, etc. A couple of special notes; for the data to be mapped, some information about location must be provided. Now, I have provided "city" and "country." I could use a technique called "geocoding," but this process comes at a real cost. Some processes included with ArcGIS Online come with a real dollar amount attached and cost real money. Geocoding is one of those processes. I opted not to charge geocoding against our account and elected to use geographic coordinates instead. Thus, the "x" and "y" are latitude and longitude. The ArcGIS Online dashboard comes equipped to handle data attached to geographic coordinates at no cost to the user. The upload process is also smart enough to identify geographic coordinates in a spreadsheet in the event an unsophisticated user provided unusual field headings, like "peanut_butter" and "jelly." The data within the record is often enough to offset unfortunate headings.

There are two columns missing from the above graphic. The first missing field is "image_LNK." This is a reserved field name. Use this field to provide a link to an online image. The field must contain the fully qualified URL to the image. The second missing field is "wiki_LINK." This field contains the URL to pertinent Wikipedia page. I believe adding other custom fields is possible, though I have not explored this potential. To provide better coverage, below is the rest of the spreadsheet.

This is not a precise tutorial for putting data online. The process is not more involved than what I have described, though. ArcGIS Online maps can be shared with selected Murray State people or Murray State groups, or can even be made public. And, as you have see above, can even be embedded in a website.

The same potential for building map applications similar to the two maps I have posted exists for kids in kindergarten through high school in Kentucky. Sponsored by the Kentucky Geographic Alliance, all K-12 schools in Kentucky have at their disposal ArcGIS Online for Education. Check out for complete details.

For more information about ESRI's ArcGIS Online for Education at Murray State contact Michael Busby at the Mid-America Remote sensing Center (MARC.)

Dr Robin Zhang Keeps Up with Geoscience Graduates

In the 2013-2014 academic year Murray State University charged individual departments with keeping track of graduates. Figuring out geographic distributions, mapping geography, is something geographers tend to be pretty good at. In the Department of Geosciences, Dr. Robin Zhang took on the task of mapping where Geosciences graduates end up soon after graduation.

Using ArcGIS Online, a free mapping application provided by ESRI courtesy of MSU/MARC, Dr. Zhang decided to give the mapping application a shot. Below, is the GIS-based mapping application created by Dr. Zhang illustrating the distribution of Geosciences graduates.

Interactive maps like the one above are pretty easy to create. To create one of these interactive maps, an ESRI Global Account is required. These accounts are free, created simply by visiting and filling out a short form. An account can also be created by the local ESRI Site License Administrator, Michael Busby. An invitation to join the Murray State University ArcGIS Online community is also necessary. Again, this request goes to the local ESRI Site License Administrator, or can be handled during the ESRI account request.

The account provides access to ESRI's ArcGIS Online for Education. The next bit of the puzzle is managing the data. In Dr. Zhang's map app, her data were the locations of Geosciences alumni - people. People will gainful employment are typically tied to an employer's address, a building. The building can be located in a number of ways, but most commonly with an address or a set of coordinates. By clicking on one of the colored dots, information on a person is revealed, including the longitude and latitude (x and y) of the employer's location. To put a point on a globe one needs a coordinate, a longitude and latitude. With that important element in a spreadsheet, each row in a spreadsheet then becomes a mappable record.

In essence, one really only needs a spreadsheet replete with information, tied in some way to a place on the Earth. Then, an interactive map is born. In my next post, I will demonstrate my interactive map and provide an example of my spreadsheet.

GitHub Student Developer Pack

GitHub recently released a suite of software, programming resources, cloud development tools, and other development resources specifically for students.

The Education branch of GitHub has partnered with several providers to offer students a nice bundle of free services, software, and opportunities to begin app and service development.

For complete information, click here.

To be eligible, you must be a student aged 13+ and enrolled in a degree or diploma granting course of study. All one needs is a school-issued email address, valid student identification card, or other official proof of enrollment.

To get access to the pack, GitHub will need to verify your student status. Sign up using the form and GitHub will send you an email once you've been verified.

GitHub Education is also a great STEM resource for crowdsourcing programming, for software development, for learning to code, for improving code, and for all sorts of activities related to software development.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Archaeology Prints Its First Object

In early August, Dr. Kit Wesler was finally able to get his Cubify CubeX Duo up-and-running. Not through any fault of his own; several work orders were stacked up to bring electric and networking to his Terrain Modeling Laboratory. Once the CubeX Duo had a firmware update, a test file was uploaded to the printer. The CubeX Duo is only connected to computer to receive firmware updates. Print files (.STL) are moved to the 3D printer via a USB drive. The onboard computer and menu system provides access to printing specific print files. The short video below shows the printer in action.

The Cubify CubeX Duo was purchased along with a 3D scanner as part of a long-term project to generate models of archaeological artifacts. A collection of model archaeological artifacts would be assembled into interpretive collections for distribution to local primary and secondary schools to enhance students knowledge of local history and culture. These model artifacts would represent primarily the Mississippian culture which existed throughout much of the southeast United States from about 800 A.D. to approximately 1600 A.D. (New Georgia Encyclopedia)

So, what was printed? A rook, the test file provided by Cubify (above). The Murray State coaster and dime (on the coaster) provide scale. The print job took about 4 hours. The level of detail is pretty cool; not seen in the image is the spiral staircase running from the floor to roof inside the rook. Many of these 3D printers create very impressive levels of details even as seen from the outside. If one were to examine these objects closer, the interiors of most objects also contain high amounts fine details only visible by close scrutiny.

3D printing and scanning, outrageously expensive a mere 5 years ago, are becoming nearly commonplace. Such vendors as Cubify, Makerbot, and Printrbot provide entry level printers affordable to home enthusiasts. Some models are less than a $1000, putting them within reach of individuals, schools, and small businesses. 3D printing and scanning is rapidly becoming the basis of DIY, entrepreneurial fabrication, and a necessary tool for the Maker movement.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kentucky Academy of Technology Education at Murray State Brings NAO to Western Kentucky

Parts of this post are borrowed from the WKMS coverage of KATE's latest technology endeavor, the NAO programmable robot. I include portions of the interview to ensure continued coverage of innovative and STEM-related topics which promote local efforts to integrate emerging technologies in education and entrepreneurship.

Kate Lochte and WKMS sat down with Dr. Robert Lyons, Ginny Kelly, and Dwayne Buchanan to discuss the introduction of emerging technologies within Primary and Secondary Education. The newest technology promoted by KATE (Kentucky Academy of Technology Education) is the NAO robot. NAO is a French-made programmable robot developed specifically for educating young minds - and perhaps older minds, too - in the field of robotics and programming.

The NAO, designed and built by Aldebaran, is programmable using a collection of images to move the robot through a set of behaviors. NAO can also be customized by students by learning C++ and create their own set of custom behaviors.

"This is the second year the NAO robot is utilized in the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education program. A middle school in Bullitt County was the first to conduct a trial run. Students were selected to already had an interest in computer programming to try the software and the robot. They took their learning experience to a nearby elementary school for a demonstration. Because of the interest in robots, students who were not necessarily leaders in the classroom stepped forward and became leaders in the project. Feedback shows that 80% of the kids in the trial had gone on to take another programming class in STEM." (WKMS;; August 15th, 2014)
Ginny, Robert, and Dwayne also did a great job of incorporating Make and D-I-Y activities into their discussion.

Please listen to the entire interview at WKMS here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nashville Mini Maker Faire

September 13th, 2014
Adventure Science Center
10 am to 5 pm

The second annual Nashville Mini Maker Faire is coming up soon! September 13 at the Adventure Science Center, over 30 exhibits and 3,000 people will take part in Nashville's Maker Movement.

This year's Crafter's Challenge theme is "cycle."When you hear “cycle”, what do you see? Recycle? Bicycle? Water cycle? Baseball cycle? Now put your vision into a crafted piece and enter the Nashville Mini Maker Faire Crafters’ Challenge. All types of creative crafted pieces are welcome, from sculptures to paintings to quilts to wearables to designs and more. Entries will be displayed at the Faire and winners will be chosen by celebrity judges and popular votes. Thousands of people will see your creation. There are only two simple rules:
Rule #1: Your artwork must incorporate your interpretation of the word “cycle”.
Rule #2: You must fill out a Maker application and indicate you are entering the Crafters’ Challenge.
(From MAKE Blog, 7/30/2014) 

The first annual Nashville Maker Faire featured the Full Scale Millennium Falcon Project, the Official R2-D2 Builders Club, and Master Builder Chris Lee.

Here is a YouTube video of Nashville's 2013 Maker Faire, every exhibit in 2 minutes:

For more information, click the graphic below, or visit

Friday, July 11, 2014

ESRI's ArcGIS Available for Faculty, Staff, and Students

ESRI believes geography is at the heart of a more resilient and sustainable future. Governments, industry leaders, academics, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) trust us to connect them with the analytic knowledge they need to make these critical decisions that shape the planet. (from ESRI's Vision Statement) ESRI offers ArcGIS for designing and managing solutions that comprise ArcGIS for Desktop software to discover patterns, relationships, and trends in the data in databases, spreadsheets, or statistical packages. (from Bloomberg BusinessWeek Company Snapshot)

Murray State University, through the Mid-America Remote Sensing Center, offers and supports a variety of ESRI's ArcGIS software products for faculty, staff, and student academic use. The ESRI software of primary interest to most users is ArcGIS for Desktop. ArcGIS for Desktop is the cornerstone application for the analysis of spatial patterns throughout a vast assortment of industries and disciplines.

For users not particularly interested in enterprise GIS software, ESRI offers other means for visualizing geographic data, from ArcGIS Explorer to ArcGIS Online for Organizations. These apps allow access to geographic data through a small, downloadable app run from the desktop, to browser-based access to data already available online provided by GIS servers around the world.

Murray State also has access to ArcGIS Server, allowing for the publishing of GIS data to the general public. ESRI's Collector application allows users to collect field data, such as biology students collecting information about flora or fauna, agriculture students collecting field measurements, or students collecting campus information for building campus map apps.

Murray State University and the Mid-America Remote Sensing Center are members of the Council for Post-secondary Education Commonwealth of Kentucky Site License Agreement with ESRI. Each year, MARC pays a small fee, along with about 18 other universities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in order to access the majority of ESRI software products.

Updated** The Commonwealth of Kentucky CPE/ESRI Statewide License Agreement covers academic, research, and administration use of ESRI's software products. Academic use includes faculty research, grants, and some contracts.1 ArcGIS Desktop can also be used for serving the administrative aspects of the University, such as campus mapping projects, Facilities Management, and the research and analysis of service region demographics.

ESRI software products can be installed on any university-owned computer or laptop.

Students have access to free, one-year licenses of ArcGIS for Desktop.

Also available are about 80 free Virtual Campus courses. These ESRI-led courses provide educational and training opportunities for faculty, staff, and currently-enrolled students to learn software, techniques, and analysis methods. The added benefit of these courses is they can lead to software certification, transcripts are managed, certificates are provided, and some courses qualify for continuing education credits for professional certifications, such as Professional Engineers or Professional Geologists, or Licensed Surveyors.

For more information about the Murray State University/MARC ESRI Site License Agreement, please contact Michael Busby, the MSU/CPE Site License Administrator (SLA).

I. The HESLA allows for cooperation with non-profit organizations and collaboration with other public institutions as long as the results of the work do not result in any for-profit benefits. For example, engaging in "Memorandum of Agreement/Understanding" with Kentucky Fish & Wildlife for research and analysis of white-nose disease would be an acceptable contract. 

During the planning phase of any grant, contract, or MOA proposal, please contact the local SLA to ensure contract compliance.