“Status report?”

“We have clearance, Clarance.”

“Rodger, Rodger.  What’s our vector Victor?”

Apart from the chatter with flight control, the flight simulator at the Beckman Institute’s simulator building allows every aspect of flying apart from actually being in a plane.  There is a pilot and co-pilot seat complete with a full dashboard including control of the throttle, cowl flaps, and aileron trim.  The outside world is projected onto three large walls.  The simulator software offers a variety of terrain (from mountains to cities), weather (including rain and snow), and aircraft (from commercial and military jets to single prop) .

I was given the chance to fly an F 22 Raptor through the grand canyon.  It felt so realistic that I was very tense as I banked sharply through the canyon walls.  At one point I tried a barrel roll but did it so fast that I think it made everyone in the room dizzy.  I’ve always liked planes and flight (hence my major as an aerospace engineer) so this being the closest i’ve ever been to flying a jet really made my day.

F 22 Raptor by Lockheed Martin

The flight simulator is extremely useful for conducting flight training in a safe environment.  For example, a flight problem or disaster can be purposely caused in order to practice what one would do in the situation.  Another use could be for the practice of dangerous maneuvers.  The simulator’s realism causes different planes to handle differently.  For example, a large commercial airliner is much harder to pull out of a dive as compared to a jet.  The simulator is a safe method of experimenting with different, unfamiliar planes.


The Green Map Project utilizes GPS to acquire a specific “green” location via latitude and longitude coordinates.  The collection of locations are then laid over a custom map (for example, in google maps) to produce a Green Map. A list of Green Map Icons define the green locations.

My group was assigned to a main section of campus:  from the Henry Administration Building (north boundary) to Gregory Street (southern boundary) and from the Psychology Building (west boundary) to Matthews Street (east boundary).  This section included the Main Quad.  We used the GPS to mark “green” locations such as bike paths, public transportation (bus) stops, recycling areas, and public recreation places (YMCA).  The GPS was not only very easy to use, it was also extremely precise and accurate with regards to our position and heading.

The only trouble we had with the GPS was seeing the screen in the daylight.  It wasn’t until after we finished that we realized the GPS’s backlight was not on.  The ability to manually control the screen’s brightness is a necessary feature in order to prevent the battery from being drained when the GPS is not in immediate use.

Geocoding Basics

March 10, 2010

According to batchgeocode.com, to geocode is to “take a street address and convert it into latitude and longitude coordinates so that it can be displayed on a map”.  I chose to geocode the 20 nearest Best Buy Stores to Champaign, IL.  After setting up the addresses in Excel and running the geocode program, the following map was produced when opened in Google Earth:

As it turns out, Best Buy Stores are spread apart (except near Chicago) causing several stores in Indiana to register as “nearby locations”.  Understandably, bestbuy.com ‘s store locator only shows the 4 closest stores at a time, as more than 4 could place the customer in another state.

The only problem I came across with the geocoding was finding the latitude and longitude coordinates for each address.  I expected the coordinates to be integrated into the map points.  Instead, they were in a table just below the map.  Unless I did something wrong, I suggest that the coordinates be incorporated on the map.

Geocoding can be very useful as different countries have different formats for addresses or even lack them completely.  Geocoding would provide a global language of addresses in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates.  This would be beneficial to foreign tourists, the military, and governments.  In special cases, such as disaster areas (Haiti, Chile), if addresses were in latitude and longitude coordinates the military would have a much easier time locating buried buildings and trapped victims.  Geocoding could become a ‘universal translator’ in the language of location.