February 4, 2017

Remote Robotic Telescope Lab Notes - Part 3

It's been about a month since the last blog about our work on the ATEO project, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy. Last time we took a look at some of the hardware being used for ATEO, introducing some new technology we are throwing into the mix (by way of Raspberry Pi) to keep things interesting. Now we'll take a peek at some of the software that will be used as part of ATEO, specifically the UI (user interface) that will be the students access point into the ATEO telescope.

For the ATEO project, we wanted to be able to deliver our "product" via the World Wide Web: all a student should need to access the ATEO telescope is a browser and an internet connection. Our first challenge with designing and implementing a web-based tool was: how do we choose from the overabundance of available web application stacks (PHP, Ruby, Node, etc...), all of which provide what we need with varying degrees of complexity and success? The choice turned out to not be very difficult since we wanted to hit the ground running and not spend lots of time learning new languages, and this meant that a JavaScript implementation using NodeJS was the best choice. In particular, we chose the HapiJS framework which allows us to build not only the web application portal but also the APIs needed to tie everything together.

Now, what will it look like? Here is an initial look at a prototype of the portal home page:

ATEO Online Portal on a Desktop Computer
ATEO Online Portal on a Desktop Computer

Image of Online Portal on an iPhone 6
Online Portal on an iPhone 6

Following the KISS principle ("Keep it Simple, Stupid"), the idea is to make it very obvious what each section and link do; we want to avoid confusing the user by minimizing the clutter which can result by having too much information on one page. This solution is also tablet and mobile friendly: the portal dynamically adjusts its layout according to the size of the browser so you will not be restricted to using a desktop or laptop when using ATEO.

Up next: since we have working versions of the profile page and the others will be following shortly, expect a follow-up blog post on the status of the ATEO portal with screen shots and more information on what each of these areas does. Until then - clear skies!

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