Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Earning a Merit Badge: Rocking on the Computer


Pumpkins from the field. Photo by S. Veatch
By exploring the web we can find all sorts of interesting things related to our hobby.  I am listing just a few here for you to think about. This is only the tip of the iceberg!

Making presentations with your computer.
One of the things I enjoy most about belonging to a rock club are the presentations made by fellow club members.  These are often slide shows of a collecting trip or a tip to the Denver Gem Show or the one in Tucson, but they also include show-and-tell presentations of a member's collection, a demonstration on a particular lapidary skill, or a story about an old mine near a ghost town.

With the widespread use of digital cameras, these presentations increasingly are being given entirely off a computer through a digital projection system using PowerPoint, a presentation software made by Microsoft.   Students in school are often called to create PowerPoint presentations as group homework projects.  It is really fun to incorporate video clips and sound. Here is a silent movie about a volcano made by a CSMS pebble pup.

Digital photography.
At a more basic level, always bring a digital camera on your collecting trips so that you can photograph the surrounding countryside, the specific locality, and what you are finding.  You can pick out the best shots, burn them to a CD or jump drive, and share your discovery with other kids in the club.  In this merit badge exercise you can see how far your computer skill will take you and how you can apply those skills toward rock hounding.  I like to write short, one or two page articles using several photographs or artwork. 

Indian arrowhead from El Paso County, Colorado. Photo by Patrick Henry Elementary 4th grade student.

Beyond amazingly shaped rock, probably a limestone.  Photo by Patrick Henry Elementary 4th grade student.

A covelite specimen. Photo by Photo by Patrick Henry Elementary 4th grade student.

These images made by 4th grade students have been staged, that is interesting materials have been used in the background to create interest in the specimen.  A small "egg" of silly putty from Wal Mart can be used behind the specimen to get them to the desired position.  You can also buy at Wal Mart a very small tripod to mount your camera on.  My camera was mounted on one of these inexpensive Wal Mart tripods for each photo the 4th grade student took.  This stabilizes the picture.  I then set the timer for ten seconds.  The student simply pushed the exposure button down half way for auto-focus to work, and then the student pushed the exposure button the rest of the way, starting the timer.  At that point everyone should leave the table area where the photo shoot is going on and let the camera count down.  This ensures there will be no one shaking the table.  After 10 seconds go by, the camera takes a picture on its own.

Cataloging your collection electronically
When I was a kid, many years ago, I used a composition notebook to catalog my fossil collection, listing new fossils as I got them. With the advent of the computer, collectors can make a simple Excel spreadsheet that can track your specimens. The columns are master fields and they have titles at the top.  Then you enter the information in ROWS under the fields.  The key is that each specimen must have a specimen number that is unique an has only ONE line associated with the specimen in the spreadsheet. Then your master fields would look something like this:
Number  Species  Genus  Common Name Time Period  Formation  Location  State  GPS    Date Found

With these master fields, you will enter data into rows; each specimen represents one row and has a unique number.  You could begin with number 1.  Now, if you had say 85 fossils, you could then do sorts, and have your Excel spreadsheet show you all fossils found in the Morrison Formation, or you could do a sort on all fossils from the Eocene epoch, or you could even do a sort on all fossils from Texas.  So, when you do a sort on the Morrison Formation, the spreadsheet will show you everything from that formation ONLY; similarly, if  you sort  all Eocene fossils, the spreadsheet will ONLY show you those fossils from the Eocene, nothing else.  You can create even more master fields, such as dollar amount if purchased.  All of the fossils could be on the first page of your spreadsheet.  The second sheet could be for rocks with these master fields:

Number  Rock name  Time Period  Formation   Location  State  GPS  Date Found/Purchased

The third sheet could be for minerals with these master fields:

Number  Mineral    Variety  Location  State  GPS  Date Found/Purchased  Amount Paid/Value

Writing an Article with your computer.
I like to combine research, artwork, and photography to create both long and short articles.  With careful work and organization, you can produce a written piece suitable for publication.  Contact us for more details.

Artwork by CSMS Pebble Pup Nicholas.

Artowrk by CSMS Pebble Pup Ryan.
Maps and GPS to find your way.
I use several maps when I go to an area to do research or collect.  Fist, I always get the US Forest Service Map of the area since it has all of the roads and shows public and private land.  Next I take a 7.5 USGS quadrangle map with even more details.  I have found it very cost effective to take the maps that I will be using a lot to DocuMart and have them laminated.  Now the maps will last forever. 

To get topographical and geological maps visit the Colorado Geological Survey: http://geosurvey.state.co.us/Pages/CGSHome.aspx  or go to the web site of the U.S. Geological survey:  http://www.usgs.gov/.

On the web, mapping services such as Google Earth (http://earth.google.com/) combine traditional road maps with satellite images that provide a close-up look at your site. 

The Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS has transformed how we might go about finding our favorite collecting spots, even in desert localities where the unmarked fork in the road turns out to be three or four forks, none seeming to line up exactly with the guidebook in our map.  We are going to have some field trips where the adult members of the pebble pups will be providing a demo of GPS in action by doing a "geocache" or treasure hunt: in a container or bag filled with fossils or minerals, it will be hidden and the pebble pups will get its GPS coordinates.  And then the pebble pups play GPS hide-and-go seek until the cache has been located.

Activity 1: Exploring the web.
Explore the web via search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, or Ask.con.  Come up with topics like quarts or dinosaurs to see what you can find.

Activity 2: Reporting on your favorite web sites. 
Explore the web on our own to find two or three web sites related to your interest (minerals, fossils, geodes, meteorites, lapidary arts, natural history museums, etc.). Write down the web address of each site and a brief description of what you found to share on the site with this blog.

Activity 3: Making a presentation with the computer.
Create a PowerPoint presentation about your favorite rocks, minerals, fossils. or collecting site using images taken with a digital camera.  If you have the right equipment and skills, you can even incorporate video clips.

Activity 4. Cataloging your collection electronically.
Create an electronic catalog or list of your frock, mineral, or fossil collection that includes the master Fields that are important about the specimen.

Activity 5. Maps and GPS to find your way.
Learn about different types of traditional paper maps (roadmaps, topographic maps, geologic maps). Then explore mapping features that are on the web, such as MapQuest or Google Earth or images available via the websites of some of the geological surveys.  Learn about GPS and how it can help you find collecting spots.  Write a one-page report on what you have found (this requirement can be met by attending one of the many field trips we have and use GPS).

To earn your Rocking on the Computer badge, you need to complete at least three of the five activities.  When you have earned your badge, let your pebble pup leaders know.

This is a Porcupine Production and brought to you by all of your friends with the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups, or the 4Ps.

Steven Veatch, the Pikes Peak Pebble Pups leader

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Welcome! This is the gateway to adventure and discovery

Through this blog pebble pups and junior members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society can access their lessons, work on assignments and projects, and receive details about field trips in the Pikes Peak Region. This Internet program is also suitable for young people who are interested in Earth science but do not live near a rock club or gem and mineral society or for young people anywhere who want a deeper dive into these topics. The only requirement is that all participants must be members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and must fill out the CSMS membership form (under important websites) and send their registration and membership fee in. Steven Veatch is the senior instructor and will need an email from you with your name, address, phone number, and permission from your parents to participate in this program.