Professor, students help map Harborfest in 3D

For the past two years, James Early and some of his SUNY Oswego students have helped create the first all-digital, 3D map of Harborfest, one of the region’s largest summer festivals. 

The main goal of the project is to move away from a hand-drawn map of the festival’s parks, and to move into a digital tool for planning space assignments.

“The way they set up the festival was that a person sat down with a piece of graph paper and a pencil and they would draw stuff,” said Early, an associate professor of computer science at SUNY Oswego.

With the help of Early, software engineering major Michael Kaine, at least half a dozen past students and Google SketchUp software, the new digital map has allowed Habrborfest, founded in 1988, to move forward technologically.

Kaine, a fifth-year senior, has been working with Early on the software in 2011. “I’ve been playing with the program a lot; it’s really powerful and just really cool,” Kaine said.

Last year, Early used Google Earth’s satellite images to pinpoint each park used in Harborfest, and used those images as a blueprint for the project. Early then uploaded the satellite images in SketchUp.

Early and several SUNY Oswego students then used a GPS locater at each park. The team ultimately figured where vendors could efficiently connect to power and water—an important step.

Smooth start

Early said his team’s work on the project last year allowed the digital maps to be completed within two weeks of the festival.

“Everything was ready to go, they knew where things were going to be and it went very smoothly,” Early said.
 
Kaine’s biggest upcoming project will be figuring out how to condense the vendor area for this summer’s festival, which will run July 28 to 31.

Last year, Early’s team made 3D maps for Breitbeck Park, Maritime District Square, Riverwalk West, Riverwalk East, East Park and Fort Ontario. He said use of Fort Ontario for Harborfest has been discontinued this year—the property was too large and didn’t fit the scheme.

“They are not using the fort this year, so we need to reconfigure everything—most notably East Park,” Early said. “We have to figure out how to get many vendors into smaller spaces.”

Damian Schofield, director of the human-computer interaction program, has been assisting Early and Kaine this year. Early said Schofield has a great deal of experience with computer visualizations, and his assistance has been essential to the project. Besides Kaine, past student assistants included Earl Bellinger, Joe Mirizio, Kevin Paris, Anthony Kirkpatrick, John Familo and Simon Tilly.

Kaine said participating in the festival-mapping project has many benefits.

“I think the fact that I’m working on something as big as Harborfest will have an impact on work I do in the future,” Kaine said.  “This has huge benefits for me all around and I am pretty excited about the project.”

Software improvements

For the future, Early said his team would put parameters of every park into a script, which in turn would suggest a suitable placement for each vendor.

“What I’d like to see, ideally, is a vendor (visiting) our Web page, and they say, ‘These are the attributes we need,’” Early said. “The Web page would then run our little script, show them a picture of where it would be and ask them, ‘Is this acceptable to you—yes or no?’”

J.P. Scullin, vendor and membership coordinator for Oswego Harbor Festivals Inc., believes that the biggest benefit is having a good base to go back to each year. Scullin said the 3D digital map saves everyone time, labor and resources each year. 

“We couldn’t have done this without the great assistance of Early and his students and additional faculty,” Scullin said.  “We are really appreciative of his work.”

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(Posted: May 11, 2011)

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