Penn State undergraduates participate in GeoVISTA internship on geovisual analytics of IED attacks

Undergraduate students Nick Maziekas and Matt Murdock recently completed GIScience Internships (GEOG 495G) with the GeoVISTA Center under the supervision of Dr. Alan MacEachren and Rob Roth (PhD candidate). The students worked on the Basic Ordinance Observational Management System (BOOMsys), a prototype geovisual application that depicts spatiotemporal data about improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Iraq. The prototype software application began as a capstone project for the course Dynamic Cartographic Representation (GEOG 461W), which the two students completed in Spring 2010.

Nick and Matt were offered an internship in GeoVISTA that allowed them to continue development on their project while gaining additional experience in cartographic representation, geovisualization, and geovisual analytics. Following the semester-long internship, features of BOOMsys include:

  • Depiction of the number of IED attacks aggregated by province using circles scaled to the data. Each symbol can be probed to display background information for the province.
  • Tools to explore the data by various time frames, including totals by day, week, month, and a composite week by day.
  • Animation of the map, using traditional 'VCR' controls.
  • Temporal legend providing a visual overview of each time sequence. All items included in the temporal legend are interactive, allowing users to retrieve details about the specific time step or jump to the associated time span on the map.
  • "Visual benchmarks" that can be turned on to indicate the maximum, minimum, and/or average for each province across the selected temporal sequence.
  • Standard Google Maps controls such as panning and zooming for user familiarity.

Boomsys interface
The BOOMsys application, available at

Matt and Nick are being proactive in getting feedback on their work from the academic community. Matt led a presentation on BOOMsys this past October at the Association of American Geographers (AAG), Middle States Regional Meeting in West Point, NY [view presentation slides] and Nick will be leading a joint poster presentation on the project in April, 2011 at the AAG Annual Meeting in Seattle [view abstract]. Nick and Matt will extend their internship with the GeoVISTA Center into the Spring 2011 semester to continue development and prepare a paper for publication.

About the Interns:

Nick Maziekas is from Mahanoy City, PA. He will graduate in Spring 2011 with a B.S in Geography, GIScience. His research interests include geovisual analytics, spatial analysis, and cartographic design. Nicholas is seeking a position as a geospatial analyst for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Matt Murdock, from Chico, CA, served 8 years in the US Army with both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions completing multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a dual degree B.A./B.S. candidate in Anthropology and Geography GIScience. He is a recipient of the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship. His research interests include geovisual analytics, spatial and temporal data representation, human geographic space interaction, HCI, and socio-cultural anthropology.

For more information, contact Krista Kahler at

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