Tag Archives: Google Earth

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.

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Piper J3 Cub at Rohn using Google Earth browser plugin

Trail Log

Pilot Log Book

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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.

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Old gefs-online detail entering Rainy Pass
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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.

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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

Options for Updating Team Positions on Google Earth Iditarod Map

This article assumes you already know how to do the following:

  1. You are using the Iditarod Excel workbook to enter students’ daily reading minutes.
  2. You are using the Trail Position sheet to see how far teams have travelled beyond the last checkpoint.
  3.  You are using the ruler “Path” tool in Google Earth to position team icons exactly on the trail.

Here are a couple of choices if you are just using Google Earth.  If you are publishing an online Google Map, your choices will be similar, but with important distinctions I will address in another article.

Option A: Use the existing Team icons and move them to the new position. This way, you only see the current position of each team.

Option B: Use color-coded icons to show each day’s position.

  • You can delete the Team layer on the Google Earth file you downloaded.
  • Pick a color for all teams to use for Day 1.  If you want to, use a unique shape of pin for each team. Pin the teams’ positions on the trail for that day.
  • Pick a new color for Day 2 but keep the teams’ pin shapes the same. Pin the new positions on the trail after determining the Day 2 position.
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Showing team progress using different colored pins.

A nice touch will be to add a legend showing at-a-glance what days the colors represent.