What is Geopod?
Geopod is an open source, java-based plugin for the Integrated Data Viewer (IDV), a geoscience visualization software framework created by Unidata. Developed by the Computer Science and Earth Science departments at Millersville University through a National Science Foundation grant, Geopod is a learning tool designed to enhance undergraduate level earth science education by providing students and instructors with a novel and intuitive way to explore meteorological concepts. Geopod presents a new perspective and simplified interface for using some important features of traditional IDV, while including new features to enhance learning and facilitate classroom use.

How does Geopod help students learn?
Geopod changes how students interact with the meteorological data presented with IDV. Rather than simply viewing a 3D image on a 2D screen, Geopod users are immersed in a 3D environment where they can navigate with video-game like controls, see atmospheric conditions at their current location, and use a variety of systems to gather additional data as they fly through the atmosphere. This unique, intuitive interaction style is designed to motivate students to explore the atmosphere and encourage them to learn meteorological concepts.

As students explore the atmosphere, Geopod uses a variety of techniques to help them to understand and visualize atmospheric conditions. One of the most significant of these is depicting isosurfaces of various parameters which allow students to see all locations (as a 3D surface) where those parameters take on particular values. Geopod is capable of displaying isosurfaces for a variety of different parameters or for the same parameter at multiple values simultaneously. Rather than just viewing these isosurfaces from a distance, students can fly through them to investigate their appearance at close range.

Additionally, as students fly through the atmosphere to explore isosurfaces, Geopod’s continuously updating parameter display panel shows the current values of up to 19 different parameters. This allows students to investigate not just the shape of the isosurface, but its influence on and the interactions among many other parameters. Geopod Image To further enhance learning, the isosurface lock mechanism allows students to “lock on” to an isosurface and fly along the surface, observing how other parameters change while the one parameter remains constant.

In addition to the primary learning mechanisms of isosurface and parameter display, a variety of other features like the Dropsonde device, Particle Imager, Note Location system and many others help students gather data and learn meteorological concepts. See our Features page for more details.

To facilitate student exploration and minimize time spent learning the software, Geopod’s interface was designed to be clean, easy-to-use, and accessible to novices and experts alike. In 2010 we conducted a usability study (PDF) to help us find and address any user difficulties, and we have been improving continuously ever since.

Does Geopod present accurate atmospheric conditions?
Absolutely. The data used in Geopod for isosurface rendering, parameter display, and all other subsystems is authentic geophysical data taken from data sources loaded into IDV. As such it is based on actual physics, thus exhibiting technical accuracy and scientific soundness.

How does Geopod help instructors present material?
Geopod's Mission System is a powerful yet flexible teaching tool which allows educators to create and distribute missions which their students can access directly from Geopod. Using our online Mission Builder, instructors can combine background material with specific objectives and assessment questions to produce their own mission precisely tailored to their class goals, or adapt one of the missions already created by other instructors. Students can then view the mission, carry out its objectives, and respond to assessment questions all while using Geopod. Visit the Mission System page to learn more.

How can I learn more about Geopod?Geopod Image
To find out more about what Geopod has to offer, visit our Features page or use the resources below:

Geopod is open source and freely available to the public. If you would like to try Geopod for yourself, just visit the Install page for instructions. We are still in the testing stage but we welcome friendly users and constructive criticism. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us.