GPS units for field activity?

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    Diana Sinton

    I have some funding to get a few (6-8) GPS units to use with classes.  Our previous ones are Garmin 60CSx, purchased in 2009, and we’ve been pretty happy with those.  Suggestions for any new ones? Should we get more of the same?


    Jon Caris

    I don’t think you will get any recommendations against the 60CSx units.  As you know, it really depends on your teaching and learning objectives.  Garmins are great for learning basic GPS, navigation to waypoints, and field data collection techniques.  However, you are limited to your data processing (no differential correction, I believe) and some of the more advanced data collection techniques (features within features, etc.).

    At Smith we have both Garmins and higher end Trimbles.  Thus, we have the option for simple direct instruction and use (Garmin) and more advanced GPS techniques for research and upper level classes (Trimble).  Bear in mind that the Trimbles do require a lot of care and maintenance.  The Garmins are grab and go!

    We need to develop some open hardware GPS units!


    Don Boyes

    I have used 20 Trimble Juno ST’s for several years.  When I bought them, I thought it was important to be able to run ArcPad, but if I was starting over now, I think I would be tempted to go with simpler, cheaper units like the type you’re contemplating.  I’ve never been a big fan of the ArcPad interface, and I’m not sure students end up learning more in the field with them.


    Jon Caris

    The Trimbles are definitely a handful and we found Terrasync easier and more straight forward than ArcPad for student use.  But, it is really handy to have some Garmins (we have eTrex HCs) around for casual users or quick learning exercises.

    Diana – another option to consider these days are iPads or Android devices.  The expense is higher for sure, but the added utility and future expansion may be worth the investment.  iPad 2’s are going cheap(er) these days and there are now add-on dongles to increase GPS signal gain and accuracy.  Since many colleges and universities are buying fleets of iPads it might make sense to invest in the GPS dongles (e.g. Bad Elf) and borrow the fleet as needed.  Bad Elf (who comes up with these names?) also has some bluetooth options/products.

    Someday, students will arrive with GPS chips as part of their standard implant sensor system ;-).



    Continuing the thread — though deviating from the original post...

    With respect to using Android or iOS devices for collecting GPS field data, do you have any suggestions for the “best” companion app? Apps that afford point, polyline, and polygon data types would seem to be a baseline for GIS-flavored instruction.

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