TrailScribe Electronic Field Notebook-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

TrailScribe Electronic Field Notebook-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Trailscribe Electronic Field Notebook

CMUSV Practicum Team develops Android offline mapping application for NASA field expeditions

It was more than 40 years ago when the last humans walked on the moon, and they used cuff checklists and map books with limited information as guide. Now in the 21st century, the next generation astronauts and field scientists deserve a better solution. They should get as much data as possible to familiarize with the terrain and be safe. TrailScribe aims to solve that problem. TrailScribe is an Android open source application usable as an electronic field notebook to collect, share and view information in remote environments.

Team TrailScribe with Ed Katz
Team Trailscribe with faculty advisor Ed Katz

The team interfaced with clients from NASA Ames Research Center headed by David S. Lees and Trey Smith, alumni of Carnegie Mellon. The rest of the client team from NASA includes Darlene Lim, Grace Lee, and Jerome Rasky. Alfonso Davila, a scientist from SETI, also joined the client team and participated both in user interviews and field test in a mock environment.

The major problem to be solved by TrailScribe is lack of situational awareness, followed by information sharing, standardized data collection and support for safety. The team and client agreed on prioritizing the situational awareness and ensuring usability in the field over feature list. The team delivered the minimum viable product (sync from server and display of multiple map layers such as samples, current orientation, position history, and overlays), with enhancements based on feedback from weekly demo and actual scientist testing. The client has also launched the application in a dry run during an actual field test in Craters of the Moon and the application got positive reviews and was confirmed usable in its current version.

The team applied what they learned throughout the program, starting with user interviews to capture requirements and wrote user stories that were reviewed and prioritized with the client. The team also adopted a hybrid agile approach that included best practices from XP, Scrum and SEMAT to address the fixed-deadline, short development period and be able to deliver on commitments and satisfy clients.

The team has done a handoff of the project to the client and TrailScribe will be further evaluated as part of FINESSE (Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration) project field geology and may eventually lead to space missions.