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Students learn about geospatial data analysis, virtual reality through Research Computing summer outreach

  • Science Highlights

When their teachers ask what they did this summer, the students in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s Turned Onto Technology and Leadership (TOTAL) camp will have a good answer – they spent a week learning about geospatial data with ITaP Research Computing’s Geospatial Data Analysis Building Blocks (GABBs) team.

Using MyGeoHub’s MultiSpec image processing tool, TOTAL campers completed a hands-on exercise employing satellite imagery to calculate how much land had been impacted by a flood. The week culminated in research presentations where the students shared their analysis of how certain areas had changed over time, for example, through development or population growth.

This was the GABBs team’s second year serving as the main research project for TOTAL, a program open to students entering seventh through ninth grades. GABBs team members Carol Song, Carolyn Ellis, Larry Biehl, Rob Campbell and Rajesh Kalyanam were on hand to work with the students.

In the midst of their busy week of geospatial data analysis, the TOTAL campers found time for some field trips around Purdue, including to ITaP’s Envision Center. At the Envision Center, the students learned about virtual reality and tried out the latest technology, including the Microsoft HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset that integrates 3-D images into a user’s real environment.

The TOTAL campers aren’t the only ones who had the chance to experience virtual reality this summer. Students in the College of Education’s Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI) Super Summer program and Polytechnic’s Technology Expanding All Minds (TEAM) program also toured the Envision Center.

GERI students tried an interactive drug discovery game, developed by the center in collaboration with Purdue professor Gaurav Chopra and his students. The game allows the player to step virtually inside the body and explore different ways of docking drug molecules to target proteins. It uses the HTC VIVE, a virtual reality headset with wireless hand controls that lets a user completely immerse themselves in the virtual environment.

The students attending TEAM, a program focused on highlighting opportunities for women in technology, tried out the center’s HoloLens and explored the surface of Mars using a virtual reality simulation developed by the Envision Center in collaboration with Purdue professor Sarag Saikia and his students for the Human Journey to Mars project.

Staff from the Envision Center have also hit the road this summer, bringing virtual reality to students who aren’t on campus. At a recent visit to Nora Elementary school in Indianapolis, students in a summer science enrichment program learned about the center’s 3-D technology, and had the chance to use the HoloLens, HTC VIVE and a 3-D scanner.

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