Main Campus Orthomosaic

The VSA organization Vassar Urban Enrichment asked us to create an aerial image of the entire main campus (i.e. not including the Vassar Farm, Townhouses, golf course, etc.) After a few tries with the ACS drone, we determined that the wifi signal it uses to communicate with its controller was insufficient for handling the distance we needed and the occasional obstacles in between. Drone pilot Chad Fust then used his own drone, which uses an RF signal, rather than wifi, and we were able to complete the project in two sections. The result is a merge (“orthomosaic”) of about 900 individual photos.

 

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Puzzle Pieces

We recently used the drone for a fun project: getting an aerial photo of a large sculpture project. Sculpture student Antoine Robinson had created an interactive art project, comprised of 30 plywood boxes painted with a design. Passersby will be able to move the boxes around to “solve the puzzle,” or create their own arrangement.

Puzzle Sculpture

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Beaver Pond

Prof. Lynn Christenson of the Environmental Studies program and Keri VanCamp of the Collins Field Station are interested in using the drone to acquire various types of imaging of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve. One area of focus is the beaver pond, which they’d like to view from above at different times of the year and over the years. After several unsuccessful attempts, we were able to collect a series of 200 images and stitch them together into the following visualization.

 

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Visualizing the Greenway Site

In January, ACS was asked to create an aerial photo of the Greenway site. This is an area in the college’s Ecological Preserve that was originally created as a composting area, but over time had become a dumping site. While the college has begun to clean it up, some interested students wanted to document the clean-up over time. We were able to create this image, comprised of 57 individual photos.

 

While we were pleased with that result, we were surprised to realize that the photo-stitching software that we used— Pix4Dmapper Pro— also created a 3D visualization of the site, which you can see at this website (click on “3D.”).

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Succession Plots

In December 2016, Environmental Studies major Rachel Marklyn asked us to produce an aerial view of the succession plots, on the environmental preserve. The succession plots are designated areas of a field that receive different treatments— mowing, tilling, and goat grazing— at different intervals, in order to study the long-range effect of those treatments on forest growth.

For Rachel’s senior project, she was creating a series of information signs for the preserve, one of which was about the succession plots. The wintertime photo was not very colorful, but the borders of the different plots were clear.

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Towers and Gargoyles

One of the big reasons that ACS acquired a drone was to support the work of Prof. Andrew Tallon, who wished to make videos and photos of the out-of-reach aspects of gothic cathedrals. In order to learn about and get practice with flying close to buildings, we made several flights around the tower of Main Library. To focus our efforts, we specifically targeted the 8 gargoyles that reside near the top of the tower. (We eventually photographed all of the library’s gargoyles– there are 36 of them!– though most were photographed without the drone.)

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Our First Drone

In November 2015, responding to a Frances D. Fergusson Technology Exploration Fund grant proposal submitted by Prof. Andrew Tallon, Vassar’s Academic Computing Services group purchased a 3DR Solo Quadcopter, with a GoPro camera.

3dr-solo-sm

The drone is available for education-related use by anyone at the college, though it can only be operated by CIS staff or (possibly) an approved person with sufficient training. Prof. Tallon will have priority in its use, since it was purchased at his request.

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Streaming Copyrighted Films


copyright-white[ The following are the thoughts of ACS staff and should not be interpreted as the legal opinion of Vassar College. ]

Vassar College has the technology that will allow instructors to stream videos for their students’ viewing. But instructors must first determine that doing so does not violate copyright law.

Most film and audio recordings are protected by copyright law, meaning that you can’t make copies and/or distribute copies unless certain exemptions exist. It is incumbent upon you, the instructor, to determine if any particular material can be copied and shared in any particular situation.

Ideal Scenarios
If the work is in the public domain, due to its age or because it was produced with federal funding, or simply because the creator waived copyright, you’re free to copy it. If you’ve gotten explicit permission from the copyright holder or acquired a license to that effect, you’re free to copy it. If, after a reasonable and earnest effort, you’ve been unable to contact the copyright holder to request permission, you may copy it.

TEACH Act
Under the TEACH act, you’re allowed to copy a non-dramatic work (i.e. a documentary)  and post it online for members of your class, as long as it is required for the class, and as long as it is directly related to issues that the class will be discussing during class meetings. The copying and posting should be done yourself, not by an institutional unit. For dramatic works, the TEACH Act only supports posting small portions of the work.

Fair Use Exemptions
Copyright law does allow for making copies of a work without the copyright holder’s permission, if “fair use” will be made of the copy. In determining whether or not a particular situation is fair use, you should take these four factors into consideration:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of copyrighted work. (Creative work is protected by copyright, but facts and ideas are not.);
  3. Amount and substantiality; (The smaller the portion of the work that you use, the more likely the use will be considered fair.);
  4. Effect upon the work’s value. (Copying a work is less fair if it is used as a substitute for a product on the marketplace, depriving the copyright holder of potential income.)

There is no exact formula for determining fair use; you must consider all four factors and base a conclusion on the aggregate of all four. The American Library Association makes available this tool for helping you make a determination about the fairness of a use that you are considering:

Fair Use Evaluator

If you’ve determined that your intended use cannot be strongly defended by the fair use guidelines, or any of the other exemptions, then you should consider other ways of providing your students with access to the work, such as scheduling a screening or leaving a copy of the material on reserve. Many films are also now available inexpensively, for online rental to individuals; Google the film title and the results may show that Amazon Video, YouTube, or iTunes may stream the video to individuals for $2.99 each.

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Field Research and Digital Publishing in the Hudson Valley

Interview with Leonard Nevarez

Prof. Leonard Nevarez, of the Sociology department and the Urban Studies and Environmental Studies programs, talks about his course “Field Experiences in the Hudson Valley,” in which students use various technologies— photography, blogging, tweeting, and Wikipedia publishing, as they learn about the region surrounding Vassar College.  (6:38)