Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Iditarod route changes

Big news from Alaska.  The 2015 Iditarod Sled Dog race has been moved north in favor of better conditions.  The race traditionally starts in Anchorage with a restart in Willow, but this year's lack of snow and thin ice has forced race officials to err on the side of caution.

Considering the amount of preparation a race like this requires, this is a pretty big deal.  Usually, the race alternates routes between a Northern route in even years and a Southern route during odd years.  As far as I understand, this allows for some of the more southern towns a chance to take part of the spectacle.  With this year's changes, towns such as Shageluk, Grayling, and Iditarod are going to have to wait another two years to see the mushers come through.  On the other hand, for only the second time in history, the race will have its restart in Fairbanks and run through Nenana, Tanana, and Koyukyuk and others before joining the normal course in Kaltag on to Nome.

The dog teams don't typically expect fans to line the entire race course; after all, the race is over one-thousand miles long.  The course isn't marked the entire way but I believe it is broken in by snowmobiles.  They must really be scrambling to pull this off with 18 days to go.  Plus, this will mean a lot of people are going to have to change their travel plans.  The Iditarod Air Force will be flying dog food and supplies into areas they probably aren't familiar with.  Additionally, race officials, media, veterinarians, and other support personnel will also have to adapt.

Fortunately, the original trail is all set and ready to go in Google Earth.  There's plenty of virtual snow for you and your students in RealWorldMath.org's Iditarod Challenge.  You can choose to honor the traditional southern route this year, or take the northern route if you wish.  Real World Math's Iditarod Challenge has students competing in a virtual sled dog race in Google Earth.  Each student gets to mush a team of sled dogs across Alaska from the comfort of their computers.  They'll use checkpoint information from the Google Earth Kmz download and the distance formula to calculate race times for each leg of the journey.  They'll also face a variety of hazards and good fortune along the way for a personalized race experience.  I'm gearing up a class of 6th graders for it now.  With over 20 checkpoints, it will take them just 10 minutes a day but over four weeks to complete the challenge.  Hopefully we'll get to Nome around the same time the mushers will.

Let's go, the dogs are waiting!

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