Alumnus Shows Off Techno Geo-Wizardry for Communicating with the Public

Posted on October 21st, 2010 by

Kyle Chester, a 2007 geography graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, gave a lecture/demonstration on October 20 on techniques he’s developed for communicating spatial information with the public. Kyle is a GIS specialist for Excel Energy and part of his job is creating maps to communicate with the public and solicit their input on new construction projects. Typical examples of projects would be new electrical transmission lines or wind turbines. Normally large paper maps are used in public hearings and the public is asked to draw on the maps to offer their input. Then, back in the office, Kyle’s associates would have to manually scan and digitize the sketches which was expensive, time consuming, and subject to errors. Kyle developed an automatic method of inputting the public’s ideas and spatial knowledge. Using a wiimote, bluetooth dongle, laptop computer, projector, and homemade infrared pen, he created a low-cost digital whiteboard. His $8 infrared pen can draw on the map image, which is projected onto the wall, and directly input digital data into Google Earth. This allows a member of the public to outline a stand of trees they want preserved, highlight a new building from which the wind turbine must be set back, and so forth. When the public meeting is over, the Google Earth files are directly exported as shapefiles into ArcGIS.


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