Tuesday, April 28, 2015

GIS3015 - The Final Project: ACT Scores 2013

This was the culminating event for Cartographic Skills! It has been a huge task, and way more fun than we should have been allowed to have. 

The specific task was to compile a map to be published in the Washington Post along with a short article. The map will show how many High School Seniors took the ACT test in 2013, by State, and what the Average Composite ACT score was for each US State. The exercise scenario is that I work for the U.S. Department of Education, more specifically, I work for the National Center for Education Statistics; that would be a dream job! The main objective here is that I get to use the skills I have acquired over the semester, including; Selecting the appropriate Projection; Classifying Data; using Geostatistical Tools to Explore Data; use Editing to modify an attribute table; create an excel spreadsheet and use Join and Relate; apply, Gestalt’s principles for design, typography, and label placement and much more.

I began by examining the data and using the Geostatistical Analyst tool to Explore the Data. I reviewed the data to see which classification made the most sense. Since this data is in Percent, it was already normalized so that eliminated one step. I used the Geostatistical Tools to Explore the data and made a couple of Histograms to examine the Min, Max, Mean and Std Dev. Once I had a handle on the data, it was time to start arranging my map.

In order to show Alaska and Hawaii close to the Contiguous United States, I used extra Data Frames to single out Alaska and Hawaii and to position them as close as possible so I could make the best use of the space I had to work with. 

For this thematic map I selected Graduated Symbols, and five classes to represent the Percent of High School Students Tested and the Average Composite ACT Score. I selected Graduated Symbols over Proportional Symbols because the testing percentages had a large range from 8 to 100 percent while the Average Composite ACT score was very narrow, only 18.7 to 24.1. The Graduated symbols allow the data to be presented in ranges and this allows us to more easily discriminate using the five categories of Percent Tested and Average Composite ACT Score by state.

I exported the .mxd file and saved it as an .eps file so that I could make some needed adjustments to my map using Corel Draw.  The Graduated Symbols and the Labels seemed to merge and overlap; I had a very crowded map. So, I used Corel Draw to select the State labels (US Postal Abbreviations) and the Graduated Symbols to separate them. I had used Mask, to provide a halo for the Labels, but it was still difficult to distinguish one from the other. Before I share my final map, I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this class. The people taking this class are truly dedicated professionals and certainly our Teacher and TA were both fantastic. One of the best parts of this class was the Discussion posts. I did not ask many questions but I can assure you I read each and every post and I learned from everyone in the class.  Many "thanks" to everyone.  I look forward to next semester’s classes and continued learning. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Final Project: GIS4043

The Final Project for GIS 4043, Geographic Information Systems, was a huge task of analyzing the FPL Bobwhite Manatee Transmission Line Project.  The goals of the Final are to allow and encourage all of us to show off the GIS skills we have learned this semester. It was a great experience and I am looking forward to learning more next semester.

This is a real project that took place in Manatee and Sarasota counties beginning in early 2006; in fact FPL was probably already thinking about how to expand their capabilities in these counties long before the letters and updates were published. The Final Project is set in 2009; FPL has hired me as a GIS Consultant (Raven Consulting - I had to have this name) to conduct an analysis of the Preferred Corridor in relation to various criteria. The criteria I examined are:

1. Parcels or Homes Impacted by Corridor
2. Schools and Daycare Facilities 
3. Conservation Lands Impacted
4. Cost

The task was not an easy one, but I must say I did have fun with it. I used various Geoprocessing tools, such as Buffer, Clip and Intersect. I downloaded layers for Schools, Daycares, Conservation Lands and County Boundaries. I created an Empty Point Shape File and used Aerials - several DOQQs - to Digitize homes and other structures to satisfy the home count by digitizing them using the Edit feature. The aerials were particularly challenging as the more I zoomed in the more blurry the image got due to the cells merging so that I could not tell what I was looking at.

Here is my final maps: basemap, aerials, and Final with the Corridor and Buffer zones. I also provided the links to my presentation and slide comments.

           Gil Castillo Raven Consulting Final Project PDF

           Gil Castillo Raven Consulting Slide Comments

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Google Earth and KML Files

I can't believe I have finally completed this lab--well almost.

This week we took a deep look at Google Earth and converting ArcMap files to be used in Google Earth.  Google Earth is a great program to find or tour just about any place on the planet. I can't wait for the Deep Space edition or Journey to Star Gate Atlantis!

Converting ArcMap MXD files to KML or KMZ files is a pretty straight forward concept. We have the tools in ArcToolbox (ArcToolbox > Conversion Tools > To KML).  There are two versions of the tool that I used.  The first is the Map to KML. After you select the MXD you want to convert, the tool auto populates with "Layers" since we will convert all the layers in the current MXD.  Then, you select an Output File and location. We also selected "Convert Vector to Raster (optional) since this turns all the layers into image files and groups the features together. This will help Google Earth to run faster and more smoothly by making the files smaller. That's also the reason our file are converted to KMZ not KML--the KMZ is a zipped version of the KML.

Though this saves space there is a downside to having the features in each layer grouped together; that is that you can't change these features later.  By the way, you don't even have to have this map opened in ArcMap--the conversion can be done from ArcCatalog or a blank map.

There is another tool that allows you more flexibility, namely, the Layer to KML tool. However, to use this tool, the layer must be open in ArcMap. Once you select the appropriate boxes the conversion runs smoothly.

But the best thing about Google Earth is the views.  Below I show you my KML map and a progression of views culminating with a cool close up on Tampa Bay. Enjoy!

Now I'm done!

Georeferencing, Editing and ArcScene

This lab exercise was more challenging in some ways but certainly more fun than others.  We took on the task of Georeferencing, Editing and learning more about ArcScene.

Georeferencing is a process to tell a raster dataset (in our case two raster datasets- aerial photographs- of the UWF Campus) where they belong in space-- giving the aerial images a spatial reference.  The steps to do this are pretty straight forward though there are a few items to emphasize here:

1. When you create a Link, always click on the unknown raster image first, then click on the known or referenced data.
2. You must consider the overall image, not just the RMS (root mean square) of the map;
Having the lowest possible RMS and highest order polynomial is not always best-- at higher ordinals, the image may bend and distort.
3.  Zooming to a link point on a raster image is an art: I learned that you can zoom too close and the image just blurs and makes it impossible to accurately find the corner you were looking for. Therefore, knowing what "looks right" is an art.

As for the Editing portion of this Lab, I learned we can create and edit several kinds of data.  This includes points, lines, polygons, and text. We experimented with editing a UWF road (line) and a building (polygon),that represented the new gymnasium on UWF. In this lab we digitized this data on the UWF Campus. One important lesson with Editing is to Save your work.  I think saving your work is always important, but in Editing for ArcMap, your edits are not automatically saved and you would lose your data (edits) even if you saved your map and closed it. This almost happened to me, but it was a great learning opportunity.

ArcGIS Resources has some great information about Editing. I particularly enjoyed:
Fundamentals of Georeferencing a Raster Dataset: Should you rectify your raster? 
A good read with loads of useful information. Below is a look at my first map:

Finally, ArcScene was a blast! The most challenging part was using the Navigate function:

Navigate: This is the standard navigation tool. Click and hold the left mouse button to rotate the view, click and hold the mouse wheel to pan, and spin the mouse wheel to zoom in or out.

Sounds simple, right? I thought so too, but it was quite a challenge. My computer lagged and I never seemed to get to the view or the point I was aiming for.  Guess I need a new computer....wait...I did buy a new computer a couple of days ago. My first new computer since...well, I won't say....it's really been a long time.

Anyway, back to ArcScene;
Using the UWF_DEM (digital elevation model) to add texture and depth to my map was excellent. I very much enjoyed using the Extrusion capability and then adding a Vertical Exaggeration to really pump up the 3D effects. Below is the image of my ArcScene before I added the essential map elements:
So, overall this lab was quite informative albeit, frustrating due to the slow connection and my outdated PC. However, now I have a new, faster PC,,,so no excuses...Let's Make A Map! Below is my final ArcScene Map.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Network Analysis, Geocoding & Model Builder

What a very long week! This week was dedicated to describing the various types of analyses that can be performed on transportation networks, including identifying the optimum route, identifying an EMS service facility, and location-allocation modeling. Finally, we studied geometric network analysis with an emphasis on stream network analysis, including determining flow direction, tracing edges and junctions upstream or downstream. The Lab also included learning about ModelBuilder.  The objectives for the lecture were:

- Define geocoding
- Identify common types of geocoding techniques
- Define network
- Differentiate between direct and indirect network models
- Recall tools used for utility network vs. a natural network analysis
- Define network cost and be able to provide relevant attributes
- Identify network elements for directed and undirected networks
- Define route
- Recall where to locate a National Hydrography Dataset for analysis

And the objectives for the Lab:

- Create an address locator
- Conduct geocoding by address matching
- Match unmatched addresses
- Determine why a particular address does not match
- Enable the Network Analyst extension
- Create a new route analysis layer
- Adjust Network Analyst options
- Add various stops to be visited by a route
- Set parameters for analysis
- Compute the optimal route for your stops
- Save your route
- Understand a simple model and elements available in ModelBuilder
- Understand how models can facilitate your analysis operations and workflows
- Recognize some of the model Environment setting parameters available
- Open and edit a model in ArcGIS's ModelBuilder
- Analyze data created by a model

For my map of Lake County, I created an Address Locator and identified three addresses near an EMS station. I plotted the route and labeled the addresses so that they would show up on my map. After "losing my TOC" several times, I realized that I had to click on the "Windows" icon on the Main Toolbar and click on Table of Contents, to make my TOC reappear. It was quite frustrating when, for no apparent reason, my TOC vanished. At least I was able to find it quickly. I also had to re-accomplish my Route because I could not get the addresses to display the first time. After removing and re-accomplishing the Route, I was able to get the addresses to display on my map by selecting "Stops" and "Label Features."  This was a very long Lab exercise, but I learned a great deal in accomplishing this one.


3D Mapping

This week in, GIS3015, Cartographic Skills, we worked on 3D Mapping; the Pros and Cons. The lecture objectives were as follows:  

- Describe 3D data types and associated applications
- Recall different types of 3D Maps
- Describe the challenges and advantages of 3D Mapping
- Recall how to manipulate 3D data in ArcScene

And, for the Lab:

- List and Describe data necessary for 3D GIS
- Perform techniques to visualize raster data in 3D
- Perform techniques to visualize feature data in 3D
- Convert 2D feature to 3D using elevation values derived from lidar data
- Demonstrate proficiency with 3D Analyst Extension and ArcScene
- Export data to kmz and view in Google Earth
- Describe applications of 3D data
- Compare and contrast a complex flow map in 2 vs 3D

So, where to begin??? 

There were a number of tools and reference material that we covered including the below:

Using Google Earth was fun and quite practical, as anyone with a computer and internet access can use this 3D tool. The other tools were equally useful and fairly straight forward to understand.  The tool to convert a layer to a KML (KMZ) file was also quite useful. I created the file: Ex2BostonBldgsKML. 

The best part of creating this file was watching the globe spin, very slowly, and eventually zoom to the location I had created; I wasn't sure my computer would survive.

Another tool I learned how to use was the, Extrude capability in ArcScene. Below is a snip of the file I worked with. 

All of this was brilliant, but the most important aspect of 3D Mapping I learned was in regards to, vertical exaggeration, illumination, and background color.  Above I discussed vertical exaggeration, so here I want to spend a brief time on illumination.

The default Sun elevation is set to 30 degrees above the horizon with the default compass direction of 315 degrees which puts the Sun in the Northwest. To minimize the shadows on my map I could place the Sun at an elevation of 90 degrees along a West to East line (270 degrees to 90 degrees). This would place the Sun directly overhead. In the image below, I moved the sun around Santa Barbara Island and could see how the shadows changed around the cliffs and over the land rolling to the water's edge.

At the end of the day, we must decide whether or not to use 3D feature techniques in our work. There are clear advantages to using 3D layers: 3D layers make it possible to answer questions one cannot address with a 2D map. For instance, you can address questions such as: On what floor of a high-rise condominium is it best for rescue/first responders to ingress? What vantage point should a sniper take in order to defeat a would-be threat in a large urban area where buildings, trees and other objects might obscure a clean shot? What is the best route to take to remain in the shadows given a certain urban design and time of day? There are countless military and civilian applications well suited for a 3D building layer.

On the negative side or Cons to using 3D layers: You must have a computer to view the 3D effects. If you want something that is easily transported, a paper map is better. There is also a possibility that a user may not fully comprehend what the cartographer is trying to represent in a 3D map and this might cause more confusion instead providing clarity.

However, I believe the Pros far outweigh the Cons when it comes to making a decision to use 3D mapping techniques.  Of course, we should only use these 3D techniques where and when they are appropriate; to enhance your map or emphasize a particular message.