Mobile Data Collection at RPI

26 February 2014 by Bryan McBride

I was recently invited to give a guest lecture presentation on Mobile Data Collection for a ‘GIS In the Sciences’ course at Rensellaer Polytechnic University in Troy, NY. This course introduces upperclassmen from various majors to the fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems. My presentation was about 5 weeks into the course, so the students already had a pretty good grasp of the basics and were becoming familiar with using QGIS to display, edit, and analyze their geospatial data.

Collecting Data

I gave a quick overview of Spatial Networks, reviewed the Fulcrum platform, and went over some best practices for data collection. During the lab portion of the class, we designed and developed an app for recording snow depth measurements at various locations on the RPI campus. The students will be using this data in subsequent classes as they learn about spatial databases, queries, and relates. They will be analyzing this spatiotemporal dataset and building animated visualizations using CARTO and Torque.

I recalled my freshman year in college (2000) when my advisor told me that taking GIS courses would give me an advantage in the job market. By the time I was a senior (2004), employers were expecting folks to have these skills. I spent a lot of hours on a digitizing tablet, working with ArcView 3x and am constantly amazed at how quickly this field is changing and tools are improving.

Key Takeaways

  • Most traditional GIS courses don’t spend much time, if any, on “data collection”.
  • College students can figure out a well-designed mobile app very quickly.
  • People tend to ‘get it’ faster if you can relate technology to their particular field of interest.
  • Ideally, data collection teams should pair an older, seasoned expert in the discipline with a younger, tech savvy protégé. The expert shares their knowledge while the protégé explains the technology. By the end of the project, the team is stronger and much more efficient.

Fulcrum For Education

If you are using Fulcrum in an educational setting, we’d love to hear from you!

About the author

Bryan is a software engineer with Fulcrum, and works with our web and backend platform.

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