CSC News

October 17, 2007

Model Campus

By Chad Austin, NC State News Services
Provided with Permission from NC State News Services

Last spring, a group of 10 students embarked on the most ambitious building project in North Carolina State University history. Their goal: construct 107 campus buildings in less than two months.

In this massive construction project, the site wasn't along Hillsborough Street or Western Boulevard. And the building materials didn't consist of brick and mortar. The site was an online environment, and the building materials consisted primarily of computer software.

Photo of Model Campus Building 3D imageAnd now the results of the students' work are on display for all the world to see.

NC State's Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) assembled a team of students from a variety of disciplines to participate in Google's Build Your Campus in 3-D Competition, held this past spring. The project gave college students around the country the chance to honor their school and hone their design skills by creating computer-generated virtual models of their campuses and uploading their designs into Google Earth's free 3-D mapping application.

The project commenced in January, but the NC State group didn't learn of the competition until late March – just two months away from the submission deadline. When Mike Cuales, senior multimedia specialist at DELTA, first learned of the project and approached Tom Miller, vice provost for DELTA, about putting a team together, Miller was admittedly skeptical at first.

"I didn't think there was any way that they could possibly get it done, looking at the number of days and the amount of work that had to be done," Miller says. "But they got the project done on time, and the results are remarkable."

After Cuales assembled a team that included students from the colleges of Design, Engineering, and Humanities and Social Sciences, the team went right to work.

"We only had 49 days to build 107 buildings," says team member David Tredwell, a senior computer science major. "So we had a deadline looming over us constantly. We used our initial meetings to get to know everyone and learn about each other's backgrounds.

"As an initial assignment, we had people model a building from scratch to see what we could come up with. From those initial models, we learned a lot about one another and established certain levels of detail we wanted to continue as we created models for the campus buildings."

The team took some 2,000 digital photographs of the 107 campus buildings they planned to model. Using the photos as reference, the team went to great lengths to incorporate fine details in their digital models.

"We gave buildings priority levels of low, medium, high and landmark," Tredwell says. "The priority levels determined the amount of detail we would put into them. We determined this based on each building's importance and its historical significance."

Plus, the team included some hidden "Easter eggs" in the 3-D models – like Chancellor James Oblinger posing with Mr. Wuf inside the digital model of Carter-Finley Stadium.

The NC State team's digital creations are not only fun, but functional, too.

"They're more than just a cool thing to look at," says team member Steven Valenziano, a sophomore industrial design major from Cary.

Valenziano says as information on the World Wide Web becomes more and more integrated, the virtual campus created by the NC State team could serve any number of functions. A virtual tour of campus could include information on buildings, student life and research facilities.

Clicking on Holladay Hall, for instance, could tell a Web user that Holladay was the first building on NC State's campus, and currently serves as the university's main administration building and is named for NC State's first chancellor, Alexander Quarles Holladay. Or clicking on Witherspoon Student Center could bring up movie listings for the Campus Cinema. Or if you own zone C parking permit, the Google Earth campus map could show you all the parking lots where you could park on campus.

"This technology could be used as a recruiting tool to tell people about the campus, inform them and hopefully attract them to NC State," Valenziano says. "These are just a few possibilities. There are definitely more out there."

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