Wednesday 6 May 2009

Big Adventures Small Technologies

Islay High School has been developing some ‘interesting’ trips. Amongst the usual and wonderful, skiing, Outward Bound, Sports, etc. trips. We have been going for bigger adventures too. This has been developed by one of our Deputy Head Teachers, Stephen Harrison.

The first adventure (Trip is far too small a word these) was in 2003 to Costa Rica. No Blog though lots of memories for those involved.

Though this was the start of the adventure the start of the project was 2 years before that. That is when the pupils committed to going and to raising the funds to go and commit to the training regime.

The second adventure was in 2005 to Ecuador. They tried to Blog but hadn’t quite got the hang of it. Though the photos are wonderful.

The third adventure was to Malawi and this time the Blogging was better but still a bit stilted due to access issues. Though the response on the BBC Island Blogging site was tremendous.

This adventure takes a slightly different format as it is covering 2 countries, Palau and Borneo.

An earlier Blog post gives some of the detail but loads more to come. The pupils have setup a blog and will be starting to post to it soon.

That's the background. This is what I am looking for.

What technologies should they be taking?

I have spoken to one of our suppliers, Lanway, and asked about a small, robust UMPC or netbook. They are suggesting that they can borrow a solid state UMPC with built in Camera (Both Video and still) and takes a SIM card. Though I will have to check out if they can connect to the local network after reading this.

They will also be taking an Olympus SW790 (Thats the one that can be dropped and used in water upto 3m).

I am a little concerned about charging. I have been looking at solar chargers. Anyone know anything?

and lastly GPS tracking………. I am a complete novice at this and would welcome any help.

And the last catch all What would you take?

Looking forward to the responses.


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David Gilmour said...

Judging by the response I got on showing a Flip to an East Lothian teacher who leads trips to wild places, a Flip is an essential. She had reluctantly avoided video completely because of weight and charging issues with traditional vid cams, and was completely sold on Flip. Attractions for her were: size, weight, standard AA power and ease of use in internet cafes.

John said...

Hi Ian,
I'd take a flip or three as well. You can get submersible cases for them which might be handy. I believe that you can now buy cameras with gps built in.
I've not managed to get my hands on a gps recorder yet (use my phone) but tracksticks look interesting:

Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop said...

Flip is good (the Ultra rather than the Mino). Also to note is the Panasonic SDR-SW20 - a waterproof, drop-proof etc SD camcorder.

You will not be able to edit video very well on a netbook. The most robust one on the market is the HP 2166 with solid-state drive. The only laptop suitable as a reliable multimedia base in the field is the Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 or CF-30.

For solar look at or Iowa Thin Technologies panels. You should be looking at 60W+ for maintaining multimedia capability in the field.

In terms of GPS, there are a number of ways to do this. Spot from Iridium is probably the simplest to use. Other ways are using a handheld GPS unit to log lat/long and then use Google Maps as part of your blog. The Ricoh 500SE and Nikon P6000 both automatically geotag photographs, with the Ricoh more robust than the Olympus 790SW you are taking.

For remote connectivity you will need to use the Inmarsat BGAN unit for multimedia or some text funcitonality and small images over the Iridium network. The hardware for the BGAN unit is the Hughes 9201HNS unit and for the Iridium use the 9505A unit or the new 9555.

Have a look at the Kit article at and

Digital Explorer runs a web service and training for youth expedition teams - example at

Let me know if you have any other questions.