Determining the Feasibility of Using Handheld Computers to Log Geotechnical Test Holes: FHWA-WY-06/01F
The Geology Program drills an average of 1700 test holes every year- as the first step in most WYDOT construction projects- to determine subsurface materials and conditions at given locations.
Since the establishment of the Geology Program in 1957 the standard data collection procedure in the field for geologic investigations is to record data on paper log forms. However, during winter or any period of inclement weather they are difficult to use effectively, as they often smear or tear, or the wind tears them from the clipboard. Even in the best of weather, dirt and mud are encountered during drilling and often winds up on the logs making writing notes and recording data troublesome. This produces logs that are difficult for other geologists to understand and occasionally results in the omission of information.
The goal of this research is to determine if handheld computers (PDAs, otherwise known as Personal Digital Assistants) as a means for test hole logging and field data collection would be a viable option for the WYDOT Geology Program (Geology) and, consequently, other field personnel from WYDOT or other agencies. Working conditions in the field vary greatly and a determination will be made as to whether the durability, size, battery life, screen, and memory of a PDA would be sufficient to meet the needs of field personnel and continue to work properly under adverse weather conditions.
The software would be tested for ease of use, effectiveness in collecting and utilizing data and time saved. The operation of the system involves two separate steps for the two different programs. First, data is logged in the field using a program entitled PLog developed by Dataforensics, Inc. This program is a
data entry program modified to specifically meet the needs of Geology. The original program contained numerous data entry fields with dozens of choices for the respective categories.
Geology worked with Dataforensics to choose which fields would be needed and which choices within those fields would be applicable to Wyoming soils and geology and to the drilling and logging techniques of WYDOT’s geologists.
Geology also purchased gINT software, a well-known and versatile program which produces graphical representations of test holes. The information downloaded from the PDA is copied into gINT. A correspondence file purchased with PLog allows the data to automatically be input in a manner to facilitate the formation of logs within the gINT program. Geology also purchased a specially designed log boring sheet complete with the WYDOT logo so each test hole can be printed or saved in a complete and useful format.
Although PLog was initially harder to get used to using than first thought, with a little practice the program turned out to be easy to navigate and use. The steps are clear and the ability to skip categories and go back to others makes the program very versatile and user friendly. Downloading into gINT has proven quick and simple, and logs are clear and easy to understand. Electronic storage on a server will allow Geology to store paper copies elsewhere while still allowing for retrieval from the network. Waterproof and ruggedized cases purchased to protect PDA’s from damage keep them dry and working in adverse weather.