Drones: Geography from a Different Perspective

Thermal imaging of the UNI-Dome area by a drone.If you see a drone overhead while walking on the University of Northern Iowa campus, there is a good chance that it is one of the Geography Department’s.  Dr. James Dietrich joined the faculty of UNI last summer to continue his research with drones.  Dietrich stated that, “Dr. Pease, was on the forefront” of implementing this technology into the Geography curriculum when he posted the position.  “I’m very excited to be a part of this department and university,” he continued while standing in the Geography Department’s Drone Lab.   

Birds-eye view of UNI Campus by a Geography Department drone.With drones, Dietrich is able to blend his love of technology with the beauty of being outside in nature.  Technology has allowed geography researchers to look at landscapes through the medium of photography.  Dr. Dietrich and other researchers are able to use historical aerial and ground photographs and compare them to recent drone photographs noting the changes that have taken place.

Having grown up in Colorado, Dietrich was encouraged and pushed by his parents and his professors to go out and try different things and to find his passion.  He has since traveled the United States for his education.  The University of Kansas, Texas State University, University of Oregon, and a post-doc at Dartmouth College have all been a part of Dr. Dietrich’s path toward his position as professor at UNI.Dietrich prepares a small drone for flight on UNI Campus.

UNI’s Geography department has a long standing history of strength in graphical information systems (GIS).  It has a reputation for being on the forefront of computer-based mapping, remote sensing, and satellite imagery. 

Dr. Dietrich is looking forward to working on landscape, terrain, and ecosystem restoration projects.  Interacting with the UNI students has been great.  Colleagues in the department and across campus have been wonderful in supporting Dr. Dietrich in his first year on campus.

As a doctoral student, Dr. Dietrich worked with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to do a long term physical monitoring of a salmon spawn habitat restoration of the Middle Fork of the John Day River.  It was a challenging project. The river had been altered for a mining operation and in later years over grazed by cattle.     Cattle destroy the banks of the river and change the landscape. The changes destroy habitat, increase water temperature, and affect the fish and other life in the river.  The restoration process included removing the cattle, rebuilding the banks, and planting vegetation to help maintain and increase the available habitat. 

The goal was to utilize pre-mining photos to design and complete a restoration project to bring the land as close as possible to the original landscape.  Once completed, the salmon will now have the proper conditions to swim upriver and spawn.  Dr. Dietrich’s contribution was to determine what the area originally looked like using photographs from the 1800’s and historic maps.   One photo from about 1930 showed how the mining operation had altered the landscape, destroying much of the valley river system. 

Teaching and working with students to help them understand drone technology.Next the team determined what a healthy and productive river should look like by finding a snapshot of the river in an area that was unaltered.  The objective was to mirror this healthy part of the river in the damaged portions.  As a geomorphologist, Dr. Dietrich’s task was to look at the physical parts of the river: banks, sandbars, and bed material.  Through this, he could get a sense of how the river has changed. These changes include its shape, composition, and overall structure of the river. 

River restorations can be small (a couple hundred yards) to large (a couple miles in length).  The size of a restoration adds to the challenge. This restoration would be considered a large project.  The outcome of the restoration thus far has been a success.

As a professor with a drone pilot’s license, Dr. Dietrich has six drones he utilizes for teaching and research.  Each drone has different characteristics so that different tasks can be completed.  One drone is a fixed wing, much like a traditional airplane, flying straight and level over large areas for big aerial mapping.  The fixed wing has limited maneuverability but can fly for about 30 minutes and cover a large area.  The other five drones are rotorcraft with multiple rotors.  These are great for tight spaces such as within trees and along shorelines. However they can only fly for about 20 minutes before needing to recharge. Dr. Dietrich with his largest rotocraft drone.

The drones have onboard cameras that can level themselves and compensate for movement so that the photos and videos are cleaner and stable.  The largest drone can lift up to 32 pounds.  This is necessary so that it can fly while carrying a large digital SLR camera for super high resolution photos.  It can also carry cameras that can take digital true color, thermal (or infra-red), and multi-spectral digital images, measuring both visible and invisible light at many wavelengths.  Because of its size, all of these cameras can be mounted on the drone at the same time.

Since coming to campus, Dr. Dietrich has worked on projects at the Washburn Prairie, a river restoration near Manchester, and mapping campus.  The campus mapping will allow future students to tour campus virtually.  His research will focus on how to improve accuracy of the maps created from drone footage.  The Geography Department and Dr. Dietrich can work with state and local agencies to complete mapping projects.  For example, flat maps can be made into three dimensional elevation maps.

Check out this drone video!


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 04-05-18

Friction, Shear, Drape, Warp, & Weft

The MARK-10 tests fabrics at low-load

University of Northern Iowa’s Textile & Apparel Program (TAPP) has a National Science Foundation funded Product Development and Material Analysis laboratory. Under the direction of Dr. Mitchell Strauss, Professor in the School of Applied Human Sciences, equipment in this laboratory is used by faculty and undergraduates to investigate the properties of fabrics and fibers.  The equipment in the lab is used to test swatches (fabric samples) to discover under what conditions they will fade, rip, pill, stain, burn, and wear.  Common words heard in the textile laboratory to describe the properties of fabric are friction, shear, drape, warp, and weft.   

Jordan Caruso, UNI TAPP major, tests for shear, drape, and other properties using a new and unique machine to the lab, the MARK-10.  UNI owns one of the first MARK-10 instruments on the market.  Jordan is piloting its calibration as part of her undergraduate research with Dr. Strauss.  The MARK-10 allows Jordan to gain a deeper understanding of how different fabrics respond to various stresses.  The data provided by the MARK-10 will help designers and researchers determine if a specific fabric will work for a particular application and how a garment and fabric will lay when being utilized or worn by a person. 

Jordan Caruso, TAPP major, demonstrates how to use the MARK-10The MARK-10 is a low-load testing machine.  This means it only needs a small sample of fabric in order to obtain measurements and the fabrics are not damaged in the testing process.  It is used to measure friction, shear, warp, weft, and bend of a swatch sample when exposed to stress.  Friction, the resistance of the fabric when it is dragged across a surface, can affect fabrics in different ways such as how they fall and move when worn.  Shear, the tensile strength or how much force is required to rip the fabric, is tested at a diagonal to the weave.  Warp and weft tests evaluate the tensile strength of the fabric in the horizontal and vertical directions.  The bend test is a simple test of how far a fabric can be pushed over an edge before it falls to a 45° angle.  Some fabrics bend right away while others do not.    Each test is completed in with 5 swatch samples, and the scores are averaged to ensure accuracy.  

These tests are also completed at different levels of humidity.  Fabrics, such as cotton, can get stronger with humidity while others, such as rayon, become weaker.  The tests for the fabrics are completed at 90% humidity and 0% humidity.  The room is at a constant temperature of 70° Fahrenheit (±2) and humidity of 62° (±2).  Fabrics to be tested at a 90% humidity are placed in a machine to increase the humidity, placed in a Ziploc bag or an air-tight plastic container, and stored until tested.  The 0% humidity test requires that fabrics be placed in an oven at 65° Fahrenheit for 4 hours, so that the fabric is at equilibrium and has time to dry.  It is then transported to the lab in a special container, to maintain the lack of moisture, until testing. 

Computer Generated Skirt ModelSewn SkirtThese measurements of how individual fabric types react are valuable to help fashion designers select the best fabric for a new design or pattern.  Jordan uses a program called Optitext to combine the fabric data with the garment pattern.  The pattern data will include pieces such as the front, back, sleeve, leg, pockets, etc.  A 3D model of a figure wearing the garment allows Jordan to test out different fabrics virtually.  One of Jordan's tasks is to calibrate the machine/program so that it will be easier to use and more valuable to designers in the future.  She tests the accuracy by making a sample garment to compare to the virtual one.  The goal is to have an accurate computer generated model identical to one in real life so that researchers, like Jordan, may imagine, or predict, how a fabric will look, act, and wear as a skirt, shirt, or some other garment or as a home good such as a curtain.

Using the Optitext to model how different fabrics respond differently to the same pattern will help designers streamline getting clothing to the stores by eliminating some steps.  Currently, fashion designers design a product, make a sample, and have a model try it on.  Much time is spent waiting for the sample to be made and shipped, typically from overseas.  If the garment does not look or wear as it was intended then there is a redesign, a new sample made, and tried on again.  This process continues until the garment is what the design intended.  Optitext, once calibrated, will provide a  designer with virtual garments.  Without the need for a sample, initial adjustments can be made and only one or possibly no samples will need to be sewn prior to production.  So a process that once took months could be completed  in a much less time.

MARK-10 Friction TestJordan’s work demonstrates that fabric can be very complex in its composition.  How often do we put on clothing and not even give the fabric, the yarn or even how the individual threads are twisted a single thought?  The textile industry depends on material science to select the right fabric for the right purpose. 

The tiny details that affect how a fabric is worn and acts are interesting to Jordan.  She is more interested in the fabric and testing of the fabrics than she is in the designing of apparel.  Her first semester in college was at a school in New York City.  She wanted to be a part of the apparel industry.  It was here that she realized that she preferred the textiles over design.  One of her professors, who was an expert in fabrics, enjoyed and made textiles fun.  He was one of the reasons she decided to pursue this area.  After one semester in NYC, Jordan returned to her home of Cedar Falls and began her education at UNI continuing to learn more and test fabrics under the direction of Dr. Strauss. 

Jordan will graduate in May of 2018.  One of her goals of her undergraduate research project, is to figure out how to properly calibrate the Optitiext program so that it can mimic fabrics accurately.  Knowing about these kinds of tests and the MARK-10 in particular, is a skill that Jordan hopes to continue to develop in her future career.


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 03-07-18

Serving First

Even at a very young age, Amy Hartwig knew that she wanted to serve her country.  Her family has a history of being a part of the United States military.  Her father, both grandfathers, most of her uncles, and older brother have all served either in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or the Air National Guard.  It was in September of her senior year, when she was only 17, that Amy enlisted in the Air National Guard. Amy Hartwig, Air National Guard

For six years Amy was part of the 119th Fighter Wing out of Fargo, North Dakota.  Amy conducted base-wide training for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare defense.   All personnel on base were required to annually renew their training on how to respond to an attack.  She was in Emergency Management where she made plans for man-made and natural disasters.  If there was an emergency, she would have been one of the personnel advising and providing options to the On-Scene Commander at the response site.  As part of this unit, Amy could have assisted with disasters on base and the surrounding area or deployed to other locations.  Some members of Amy’s squadron were sent to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; helping with repairs and rebuilding.   

  After leaving the Air National Guard, Amy stayed home with her young family for a few years before enrolling in college in 2013.   First, she obtained an Associates of Science at Kirkwood College in Cedar Rapids.  Then, she decided to continue her education at University of Northern Iowa in the Department of Technology  majoring in Technology Management.  Amy would like to pursue a career in project management in the engineering field.  She enjoys managing projects and processes and has an interest in manufacturing.  Amy is now in her final semester at UNI with plans to graduate in May.

Hartwig Family in ColoradoOne of Amy’s favorite things about UNI is working with the professors.  The professors in the Industrial Technology Center (ITC), in particular, “have been great”, she said.  They have been supportive of Amy’s education and understanding that other commitments, such as work or family, may cause her to miss a day or two.  She has truly appreciated their flexibility and willingness to help students catch up.   One of her favorite courses has been Technology Training Strategies with Dr. Doug Hotek.  In the past, Amy has not been a huge fan of group work.  She was required to work as a part of a group in Dr. Hotek’s class.  She had a good time in her group and was able to successfully complete the assignment.  The group members all contributed fairly to their project of creating a training course for a task at a past or current job of one of the students.  Amy’s group created a training plan to teach new employees how to fill out orders, identify pizza ingredients, and count back change for a pizza business.  Other groups created plans for framing walls and changing oil in vehicles.  She encourages future ITC students to pay attention and listen to the advisors, teachers, and professors.  This is especially important if the class is a foundations course that will be built upon in future courses.  “They are very knowledgeable.  They want to help.  They want to see you succeed.”

Amy is very active as a mother to three children, ages 14, 13, and 10.  You may find her as the referee for high school and middle school volleyball, softball, and baseball.  Amy and her family also volunteer at the Eastern Iowa Special Olympics every year while her son competes as an athlete.  If you happen to see Amy sitting down at one of her children’s activities, don’t be surprised to find her with her knitting in her lap.  UNI STEM would like to congratulate Amy on her upcoming graduation and thank all service men and women attending UNI.  Thank you for your service and best wishes on your futures.


Ginger L'Heureux, UNI STEM Graduate Assistant
Posted: 02-22-18