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