Idita-Type™: WPM, Team Strength, and Winners

The strength of the student teams is based on the average wpm of each member of the team (see Team Profiles).  If this were the only factor in the race, then the outcome would be settled before the race even started. The table and chart below show data from the 2016 keyboarding tests and how that affects trail position relative to the other teams.

Screen shot 2016-03-20 at 3.18.13 PM
How Team WPM Affects Race Rankings

The cooperative teams must complete all of their required tasks before trail advancement is awarded. This enables all teams to have a chance to win based on the efficiency that they complete those tasks.

Idita-Type™: Google Flight Simulator and the Iditarod Air Force

Iditarod Air Force Support

Okay, so if I open up the use of Google Earth to the students, I’m seriously thinking about incorporating the Flight Simulator tool into one of the positions. The role of the Pilot will be to provide air support for the team on the ground. Read about the function and importance of the Iditarod Air Force here.

The student who qualifies for Pilot will have to demonstrate the ability to perform touch-n-go skills at one of the airstrips along the Iditarod trail, such as Nikolai in the image above.

I will have one Pilot sit in the front of the room and deliver supplies at designated airports along the trail. The forward progress must be ahead of the ability of the teams to place each day’s pins and fill out the Trail Log.

The Pilot will be responsible for posting a screenshot of the trail topography on each day’s shared Trail Log in the Food Drop section and maintaining a Flight Log Book.

Screen shot 2016-03-24 at 9.00.50 PM
Piper J3 Cub at Rohn using Google Earth browser plugin

Trail Log

Pilot Log Book

Screen shot 2016-03-15 at 12.12.13 PM
Pilot Log Book

Pilot Log Book Example



Google Earth Airport Layers

If you choose to incorporate Pilots into your teams, you can download a .KMZ layer of the airports and FAA sectionals along the trail here. If you want more detailed information from the FAA, check out these overlays:


Intermediate Skill Level Pilots

Intermediate pilots can use GEFS Online, but browser problems with the CesiumJS version and school district filters will have to be solved. The older Google Earth browser plugin through the old.gefs-online site actually has better terrain resolution for the remote sections of the Iditarod trail, but you’ll still have try different browsers for it to work right.

Screen shot 2016-03-24 at 8.10.04 PM
Old gefs-online detail entering Rainy Pass
Screen shot 2016-03-24 at 8.15.48 PM
New gefs-online entrance to Rainy Pass

Advanced Skill Level Pilots

What would really be nice would be to have X-Plane running for the students who really can fly a plane.  Here in Alaska, that’s not all that uncommon.

Screen shot 2016-03-14 at 3.49.08 PM
X-Plane Piper Super Cub Cockpit

Idita-Type™: Incorporating Google Earth

Depending on the sophistication of your students’ skill, they can incorporate Google Earth 3D topography images into their Google MyMap of the race.  The header of this article is an image of the entrance to Rainy Pass, looking northeast toward Denali with the KMZ file showing the trail. (This is also a great place to show Aliy Zirkle’s You-Tube video of her team entering the Alaska Range.)

To be able to use the image on the map, your students will need a place to upload it on the internet. My sixth-graders have accounts on a Piwigo site that I moderate. They’ve used it for other projects, and it would be fantastic on this one. If you don’t want to set up a Piwigo site, your Team, Wheel, and Swing dogs can upload images directly from Google Earth into your shared Google Doc Trail Log.

Google Earth image incorporated in MyMaps
Google Earth image
Google Earth image uploaded to Team shared Google Doc file

You can also use the Weather layer and Sunlight functions in Google Earth for advanced possibilities of time-of-day calculations for trail position.

Google Earth Weather and Daylight function

Of course, if you allow your students to use Google Earth, somebody is going to start having too much educational fun and be using the flight simulator tool instead of mushing.  Maybe that’s a job for a position that has not been incorporated: Team Support.

Google Earth Flight Simulator entering Rainy Pass

Idita-Type™: Team Talk


Google Docs allows us to share a file amongst all the members of a team for the purpose of communication and record keeping. Shown above is an example of the Musher’s shared Trail Log. All of the team members have editing privileges, as does the Race Marshal.  Interesting possibilities……

I’ve created a multi-page Google Doc that can be viewed here and downloaded as a MS Word file in the Iditarod folder here. It contains a page for every day of the race, a trail map, checkpoint links to, and bookmarks within the document for easy access to different pages. Each day has a table to be filled out by the members of the team.

Team Members’ Responsibilities

  • Musher: Starting Milepost, Last Checkpoint, Time on Trail, Average mph, Resting Time, # of Dogs, Dog Health, Musher Health, Sled Condition
  • Lead: Finishing Milepost distance and pin
  • Swing: Terrain
  • Team: Weather, Temperature, Points of Interest
  • Wheel: Miles Traveled
  • Pilot: Food Drop, Comments

Position responsible for the information is shown in parentheses:

  • M = Musher
  • L = Lead
  • S = Swing
  • T = Team
  • W = Wheel
  • P = Pilot

NOTE: To compute Resting Time for this race, the Musher will divide the Miles Traveled by an average speed of 5 mph and subtract the quotient from 24.

Starting Milepost (M)
Last Checkpoint (M)
Weather (T)
Temperature (T)
Terrain (S)
Finishing Milepost (L)
Miles Traveled (W)
Time on Trail (M)
Average mph (M)
Resting Time (M)
# of Dogs (M)
Dog Health (M)
Musher Health (M)
Sled condition (M)
Food Drop (P)
Point of Interest (T)
Point of Interest (T)
Point of Interest (T)
Point of Interest (T)
Comments (P)





Idita-Type™: Adding You-Tube Videos

A great feature of the online Google map is the ability to add You-Tube videos of mushers’ accounts along the trail. Students will be able to view actual race footage and interviews, thereby gaining an accurate sense of how beautiful, difficult, and dangerous the Iditarod race truly is.

I use a custom icon to show where videos are included on the map. Custom icons can be generated from an online image, or one that you create yourself and upload.


Idita-Type™ Grade 3

So…the 6th graders thought it was too hard for the 5th graders, who thought it was too hard for the 4th graders, who made it the farthest in one class session.  The 4th graders thought it was too hard for 3rd grade, who were offended.

I took extra time today and walked through every step of the process.  We even spent some time watching amazing You-Tube videos by Aliy Zirkle along the trail.

After an hour, 3rd grade did not officially start, but I really believe they can handle the technology skills necessary.  They may even be competitive with the other grades.