Historical Map Comparator

Hi everyone! My name is Jannie Liu and I’m a rising senior, major in Computer Science. This summer I’m working with Professor Kann and Patrick Fu’18 on a historical map comparator web application. Professor Kann from Computer Science department always fascinated in world’s historical map. He and several formal CS students have already came out with some interesting web applications for comparing historical maps to the up-to-date GIS map (e.g. Google map, but here we are using Openlayers, since it’s open source.) But of course, there is no perfect software in the world, there is always things can be improved. So this summer, me and Patrick are focusing on 1)A standard UI(user interface) for all Professor Kann’s previous and future web applications. 2)Add more functionality to this program.

A typical day in CS lab is very different from other natural science labs I guess. The most frequent sound would definitely be pressing the keyboard and clicking mouse. Programmers need be alone:) There was not a lot communication going on. We all have different tasks and our code is quite independent from each other. We talk to each other because there is a bug that we don’t know how to fix or we want the other person to play the user role, asking “Hey, do you think this function is necessary?”, or “Which is the most expectable way to navigate a website?” We uploads our updated code on daily basis to make sure everyone is working on the newest version. I am very grateful to work with professor Kann this summer. First of all, he is very easy-going person, taking us to his home for Korean BBQ. Also, he never forced us to do anything that we are not interested in. I want pursing a master degree in HCI(human computer interaction) or UI/UX design. But our CS department didn’t offer a lot relevant courses. Professor Kann gave me hundred percent of freedom to design a standard layout for his series of web application. Although it involves a lot of self-learning process, since he is not an expert on UI(user interface) either. I’m very passionate and motivated about my job because that’s the stuff that I’d love to do in my future. Patrick on the other hand, loves coding and problem solving. He would love to be a hardcore programmer in the future. So his mission is to add more functions to our application.

The most exciting part of our research is having a great opportunity collaborating with Professor Allison Feeney from geography department in Shippensburg University. She wanted a software that is able to compare ancient Bermuda map to current GIS map in order to see how coast lines have changed through time. Thus, we customized our application and added some functions that she might need. Now, our application allows her to compare a historical map to a GIS map, or two historical maps. She can change the opacity of each historical map, since maps overlay on each other. We also add a slider, so she can draw lines between two maps and we are able to calculate the angle, the distance, and each points’ longitude and latitude. Of course, she can delete any unwanted lines. After she finish draws those lines, we are able to provide a integrated table with all useful data on it. We also gave her the ability to export these data to a csv (comma separate value) file that can be opened with Excel for her further calculation. We may write a paper about this program with her and we will attend to Pennsylvania Geographic Society conference that is held in Shippensburg this year. I really love this kind of cross-discipline collaboration because it shows how computer science can help other fields to achieve more.

Both of us would love to continue working on this project next spring. At that time we will be more interested in creating a more ‘general’ web application called “mapping stories” allow user to upload any kind of image maps and able to add some markers in order to share some thoughts about the associated points. Our goal is to let user share their personal reviews/ stories about some places.

This is a great summer, although doing research is so much tougher than laying on sofa or playing games(what I used to do in summer…), I guess it’s fun and quite meaningful. Hope all of you enjoy the rest of summer!


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