Local Teen Develops 3D Model of White Hall for Google Earth in Summer Internship Program

White Hall: before (top) and after (bottom) photos

Thanks to the work of a Lexington Christian Academy junior during a summer internship at Eastern Kentucky University, White Hall State Historic Site is now more vividly represented on Google Earth.

Drew Jones was one of two area high school students to complete a summer internship program at EKU designed to introduce students to 3D graphics and modeling while increasing “the digital presence of our region’s extensive cultural heritage,” said Dr. George Landon, assistant professor of computer science at Eastern. “We focused on developing photorealistic 3D models of historic landmarks in each of the student’s home county (Jones lives in northern Madison County). Students went on site to photograph the buildings and used these images as reference when modeling them in Autodesk Maya. Students were then tasked with researching the correct method to export to a file format compatible with Google Earth.”

Previously, White Hall was shown as a flat satellite image. “We gave it the same 3D treatment that the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Colosseum in Rome have received,” Landon said. “We hope that virtual tourists will be inspired by our model to come and see it for themselves.”

Google reviews closely the quality of each submission, Landon said.

According to Google, “All models submitted for inclusion to Google Earth must adhere to a set of standards to ensure a high-quality experience for all users. The majority of the criteria ensure the Photorealistic 3D Buildings layer in Google Earth is accurate and represents the real world we live in.”

Landon said Jones “has natural talent for developing 3D models, and the thought of having his models included for public viewing motivated him to develop very accurate models. And as a resident of northern Madison County, I think he was able to gain better appreciation for White Hall as a historic landmark.”

The summer internship for high school students is a regional stewardship initiative funded by a grant from the University’s Regional Stewardship Office. Jones joined Zach Morgan, a junior at Madison Southern High School, as the only two interns this past summer. Both worked 20 hours a week for seven weeks.

“This was open to our entire 22-county service region,” Landon noted. “It just happened that our two best applicants were from Madison County. We would like to have more interns next summer.”

Rising high school juniors and seniors are eligible to apply for the internship. “Since we like the students to acquire their own photographs, driving is required.”

For more information about the internship, contact Dr. George Landon at george.landon@eku.edu or 859-622-3184.

Published on September 12, 2011