Building A Sand Table: The Wildland Enthusiasts’ Toy

To refine some of my fiance’s frustrations over my maniacal interest in fire, I decided to build a sand table for my garage. This has been an ongoing interest of mine, ever since I got to use one on the Angeles National Forest during a staff ride workshop for the Loop Fire. I read the information available from the Wildland Fire Leadership Development website which illustrates how to present a STEX and includes a library of examples. I also started to read about some of the changes with regards to sand tables in general. This was primed by the recent evolution of the SIM table, something most publicly funded organizations cannot reasonably afford. As far as joe schmo in his garage, creating sand table exercises with a house cat named Frankie and a son who wants his toy cars back, you can just forget about a SIM table. But I did look into the growing field of low cost LED projectors, combined with a Kinect 3d camera, to make an augmented reality sandbox based on the ideas of Oliver Kreylos’ from UC Davis. I decided for the run of the mill, put-some-sand-in-a wooden-box sand table. I may in the future buy a mini projector to assist in the formation of the topography, but don’t forsee myself investing the inordinate amount of time needed to adequately build something state of the art. I bought some 2×4’s, 2×6’s, a sheet of plywood, screws, and sawhorse brackets and got to work. With my recent trip to Yarnell Hill and The Rattlesnake Fire on the Mendocino, I thought now was a great time to rebuild some of those situations, to try and elaborate on my take-aways.  I built mine in an aspect used by most projectors to easily accommodate one should I decided to do so.  The Plywood was primed with a  rattle can to make illustrating drainages easier and also to protect from rot, should I add water to solidify some of the topography.  I spent a hair over 100 bucks on the whole thing, plus the ongoing hunt for toys in dollar stores, my kids bedroom etc.   It sits on sawhorses and has 200 pounds of sand in it.  Should give me many years of play.

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  1. Dan Leavell

    Hi – we are putting together a 5-module curriculum for Fire Science for Oregon State University Extension for educational purposes only. You did a great job on this page illustrating how to build a sand table. We would like to teach folks in our extension communities how to do this. May we use this page?
    Thank you – Dan Leavell

    • studentoffire

      Dan absolutely use it. I’d be honored and I’m glad to hear of somebody, especially a college in my state of Oregon using it.

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