Nature Trail & New Orchard

The summer and the COVID have been keeping me busy, to say the least, and I finally have something interesting worth posting about.  Today with some help from some other folks at BCC we began a project to take some videos, 360/VR videos, and pictures to document the BCC Nature Trail.

It was a rainy start to the day so the trail itself was a little damp.  When we first met for lunch it was still raining, but after some Teo’s and some patient waiting the showers disappeared and the sun came out to dry things up a bit.  We decided to do just the drone portion of the mission, the sky is not wet after all, and wait for a dryer time to do the 360/VR video.

Here’s a video from the first part of our drone mission, to capture some closeup video of some of the cliff swallow nests on the side of Hawthorne.  I don’t know much about these birds, other than BCC used to be a popular nesting spot however lately their numbers have been declining.  These nests are to attempt to encourage them to return.

After that we walked the BCC nature trail and while taking video, measured the height of the radio tower (80 feet) and some key trees in the area.  We took some low to the ground video of some interesting plants, although I’m not sure how well those will come out.

To wrap up our tasks today, the BCC Alumni Association recently planted a new orchard on campus, a collection of apple trees near the North Parking Lot.  Here’s some of the video.

We will reschedule the 360/VR video shoot to another day soon, perhaps next week.

Virtual Tour – Remote Everything

Yes, it’s been quite a while since I last posted.  A little over two months to be exact.  The grind of remote work has really been a challenge, especially since the Summer Semester began.  It’s really difficult to provide technology support remotely, especially when the individual is lacking basic computer skills.  It’s a real challenge to walk someone through changing a setting when they don’t know how to right-click.

Today is one of the first days I’m working back in my office.  The Library and Digital Commons are still closed so there’s no users in the lab.  It’s good to come here and get back in a work groove and there are several projects to be worked on.

One project is a Virtual Tour, although most of my role is done.  With help from STEM the college was able to get our hands on a Vuze VR/360 Camera.  The camera is pretty good and takes much of the work out of stitching together videos.  The video can then be edited right in Adobe Premiere, which is where the project is at now.

Last week I met with Josh from Security, Nolan from STEM, and Jonah from Marketing so that we could capture areas on campus for the virtual tour.  For about 2 hours we took 2-4 minutes of video from about 30 different locations all around campus.  Here’s a test below with 4 of the locations, outside of Hoffman, Chemistry Lab, Boland Theater, and the Digital Commons where my office is.

Marketing is now editing the final version, I’m really excited to see what they come up with!  Some of my drone video was used in the latest BCC commercial and I’m glad to see it put to good use.  There’s a shot of flying over Patterson where you can see the entire campus and also a rising shot of the nurses from a ceremony a month ago where they were outside, wearing masks and social distancing.

You will also see Jason, one of the Lab Assistants who worked in the Digital Commons as the thumbnail.  Jason went to study at UMASS I believe — I miss him and all the other Lab Assistants!

Since it’s been so long since posting I have all sorts of media and drone flights from the interim. Here’s a bonus drone video from Jones Nose on Mount Greylock!


WordPress Workshop @UMass

Yesterday I took a day away from BCC campus to visit UMass for a NERCOMP workshop on WordPress.  It was nice to do something different and be around other folks who work in higher ed that also maintain WordPress sites and administer WordPress systems.  It was also nice to visit UMass as I used to work there back in the early 2000’s and it had been quite some time since I have been on campus.

UMass is always fun to visit and see what has changed and what has stayed the same.  One of my very first jobs out of college and at a college was in the Parking Services department at UMass, so it was interesting to see that the parking garage is now fully computerized with no human interaction required.  There were many days I had worked the booths collecting tickets and giving folks the bad news of what they owed.  Parking at UMass has always been expensive, so paying only $6.50 after validation was a good deal for the day.  It was also nice to see all the solar canopies over the lots right near the Parking Office!  My second job at UMass was in the Housing Services Technology group however I didn’t really have time to reconnect there.

The workshop itself was pretty good overall, although as with any workshop, there’s always a few parts that just aren’t applicable to what you really do.  Still, it was interesting to hear about ideas such as a Headless WordPress, which is WordPress without a back-end so it runs faster and is more secure.  There’s some tricks to doing this, but the secret is using this technology called Gatsby.   The talk about accessibility was fantastic and you will find the presentation on the NERCOMP page for the event. The biggest takeaways are that you can do some really easy minor tweaks to make your WordPress site more accessible but the most important thing to consider is the theme you choose.  Many WordPress themes are listed as being accessible so if you are creating a new site, starting with one of those is a good first step.  I used some of the tools shown to test this very blog and as a result I will be making some tweaks.

There were two presentations from researchers who were making sites for digital library collections and they discussed how they approached those projects by creating dynamic databases pushing content to WordPress.  While it was interesting, it didn’t really apply to me or anything we do at BCC, at least not on the scale of the projects they were showing.  It was fascinating, however, to hear about the saga of Wheaton College and their main website as it was a nightmare when the presenter took it over and he was able over the course of a few years make migrations and design changes to be far more scalable, supportable, and decrease downtime.

One of my favorite parts of any workshop or conference is networking with other folks who do similar work in the same field within higher ed.  I managed purely by chance to sit at a table with three folks from Williams College which is also in the Berkshires.  In fact I worked in the old Sawyer Library at Williams, now demolished and rebuilt, back one summer when I was in college myself.  There’s connections everywhere!  Over lunch I met a delightful individual from Roger Williams University who also works in a library, also flies drones, also dabbles in VR, and we have eerily similar first and last names!  Networking and finding how other folks approach similar situations is one of the other very valuable part of these sort of events.  I’m hoping that in the future we might be able to collaborate on some project — who knows what!

Overall it was a great experience for a variety of different reasons.  If there was one disappointment, it would have been the buffet lunch that was provided at UMass.  It wasn’t bad, I think I’m just spoiled by our excellent cafeteria and dining services staff here at BCC.  I’m looking forward to my next workshop/conference!  I just put in a proposal this morning to present at TLSD 2020 at Roxbury College on April 3, fingers crossed!