BAFTA Be Very Afraid 5, Trackstick Geomapping, 3D Maker

On Monday Matthew and I worked with City College Norwich RUGRoom students at the ‘Be Very Afraid‘ event at Bafta in Picadilly, London. This annual extravaganza of digital talent showcases to a wide spectrum of visitors some of the many excellent things happening in schools and colleges around the UK. This year was no different with a superb range of digital technologies being used in a variety of creative ways.

City College Norwich have been working with Geo Mapping – using a GPS enabled device (called a ‘Trackstick‘) to log locations every few seconds and enable the user to download the data which can then be added to Google Earth. The result is a path that shows as a line across the map, and which, with careful planning, can be made into all kinds of shapes!

The students from City College Norwich had to plan their routes using maps of the area around Picadilly, and make sure that they created an interesting shape. They then stepped out on the town to walk the walk, returning to download their data. Once they had it in Google Earth they didn’t stop there! They took screen grabs and manipulated the images using ‘3D Maker‘, a small app that makes a number of 3D files, some of which require a pair of 3D glasses to see – you remember the kind, one red lens, one cyan lens…?

The result was a lot of walks in the shape of cup cakes, boats, shoes, geometric designs and all kinds of interesting images. However, of far greater importance was the ability of the students to undertake a considerably complex task (which they did with ease) but also to communicate it to the many visitors who were intrigued as to what was going on. The highly demanding environment of a show such as this really tests the nerve of people who are normally reluctant to talk to people, and I am delighted to say that each of the young people at the event from Norwich were excellent ambassadors for the college.

A quick word about ‘3D Maker’ – it is a superbly simple application and needs no real tuition to use. You simply take your image, scale it to fit on the screen when at 100%, then select the items in the image that are to become foreground in the 3D output. You trace around them and adjust a single slider and the app does the rest! You can set foreground, middle ground and background items pretty easily, adjusting the extent of the ‘3D’ effect. Wearing a pair of 3D glasses really brings the images to life. If you are even remotely interested in tis kind of artistic imagery, go and buy a copy of 3D maker!

A quick word also about Tracksticks – wonderful little devices that just work as you expect. Turn them on, let them acquire a satellite signal, and go for a walk! When you get back to your computer you’ll need the Trackstick Manager application to download the data to, and then export in the appropriate format. Google ‘.kmz’ files are a snap, and loading them in to Google Earth is a double click away. One slight reservation about the Tracksticks and that is with the software which is PC only right now. A nice and friendly mac version would be the icing on the cake, and really help make the trackstick experience very good indeed.

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