EES department installs new Heller Hall maps
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated the maps were paid for by the student technology fees. The maps were funded by the Marshall and Margaret Alworth Fund. The information has been corrected in the story.
If you walk down Heller Hall, you may notice something slightly different. The corridor is brighter and colorful. You look around and you don’t see much has changed until you look down at your feet. There are new vibrant colored maps of Mars, the Earth’s moon and Venus on the floor.
The Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) department installed new topographic maps of Mars, the Earth’s moon and Venus on the Heller Hall floors between Wednesday and Friday of spring break.
Topographic maps represent the physical features of an area, and it is usually color-coded with an elevation scale—how high or below sea level.
Certain features on the topography maps can be visible using 3D glasses. Students can check out these glasses from the Kirby Welcome Desk.
Vicki Hansen, a professor in the EES department was in charge of the map installation. She had started planning the installation last fall. Hansen knelt down on the map and pointed out the various craters and volcanoes on the Mars topography map. On the Moon map, she pointed out the Moon’s oldest impact crater, South Pole-Aitken Basin—the crater the Chinese rover landed on January of this year
She worked with Tim Motzko from the Science Museum of Minnesota and UMD’s Facilities Management. Hansen used data sets collected by NASA and designed the maps herself. Motzko printed out the maps for her and oversaw the map installment. Facilities Management employees blocked the entrances of Heller Hall to strip the floor wax, clean the floors, install the maps and waxed the floors. During the semester, Facilities Management maintains the maps by waxing the floors.
“The maps stand up incredibly to the very serious traffic in Heller Hall,” Hansen said in an email to The Bark. “My favorite time is at the beginning of the school year when the floors are freshly waxed—the maps look so gorgeous, and as new as the day they were installed!”
The EES department paid a total of approximately $10,000 from the Marshall and Margaret Alworth Fund. This covered the cost of printing the map and employing facilities employees.
The Earth topography floor maps were installed nine years ago, and have been used for EES related courses in the introductory level classes to the 5000-level classes to provide students a visual representation of their lessons.
First-year Geological Sciences Master's student Serenity Mahoney is a teaching assistant for the Introduction to Geology lab courses while working on mapping the surface of Venus for her thesis with Hansen.
“I do utilize these maps for my research,” Mahoney said. “The ability to physically interact with the maps allows me to make spatial connections that I wouldn't be able to make on a smaller scale. “
Karen Gran, associate professor in the EES department explains the maps “provide a very unique perspective.”
“It gives you that big spatial extent and the ability to see in long distances,” Gran said. “So from the perspective of teaching our students, it’s fabulous. It provides such a rich experience for them, and the ability to compare amongst the different planetary bodies that have different atmospheres, different tectonics, different interior.”
Not only do they serve a practical purpose on campus, the maps are also used as a tool for community outreach. The Swenson College of Science and Engineering operates several STEM outreach programs including this year’s “STEM Discovery Day: The Weird, the Wonderful, and the Why in STEM” this Saturday, March 30. This outreach focuses on educating middle and high school students with hands-on activities.
“These maps are a great teaching aid for all people of all ages,” Mahoney said. “Their size allows for people to gather around the maps and actually interact with them. It is extremely important that we strive to learn more about our planet and the celestial neighborhood in which we reside.“
To Hansen, the maps are not just science tools and they are not just used for decor; they are both.
“To me, the maps are science and art absolutely intertwined—which is what science and art are,” Hansen said. “In the Renaissance science and art could not be separated—and for me, that is what the maps represent. My wish is for everyone in the UMD community, and all visitors to UMD to enjoy the maps, and to take time to explore and ask questions about what they see. “