Interactive Map Points UTEP in Right Direction
Last Updated on August 27, 2018 at 12:30 PM
Originally published August 27, 2018
By Daniel Perez
The University of Texas at El Paso’s interactive campus map has earned rave reviews for its layers of information that engage the user and for its potential to showcase the campus and its attributes to a global audience.
The basic map is in 3-D and offers a picturesque bird’s-eye view of the 420-acre campus that is readable on desktop computers, laptops and hand-held electronic devices including phones and tablets. Users who enlarge the map will appreciate the level of detail, from the mandalas on the sides of the buildings to the painted UTEP logo at the 50-yard line inside Sun Bowl Stadium.
Those who dig deeper into its capabilities will find a menu of extras that provide building names, floor plans for the larger buildings, accessible paths, 70 different 360-degree panoramic views, Miner Metro Shuttle stops, parking options, green spaces, housing areas and hours, menus and locations of campus eateries.
Members of the campus’s Map Advisory Committee have continued to scrutinize the tool since its soft opening in fall 2017 to see how to enhance it.
“As good as the map is today, it is capable of being better,” said Rob Parker, director of Planning and Construction, who oversaw the map’s creation. “We’re constantly looking for additional content to better serve our campus community to include safety and accessibility. It has great potential. To this point, we’ve only hit the high points.”
The map was in development for about two years. University officials wanted a more interactive tool since it completed its Campus Transformation that includes Centennial Plaza and a more pedestrian-friendly inner campus.
UTEP contacted Concept 3D, a relatively new Denver, Colorado-based company with a growing reputation after successful contracts with Google and Disney theme parks. It had recently added academic institutions to its repertoire.
The company, which opened in 2006, conducted a webinar in late 2015 for Parker and members of UTEP’s Department of University Communications. The company representative demonstrated the capabilities of its CampusBird map program that is used by Bowling Green State University in Ohio and San Diego State University in California, among others.
The consensus was favorable because of the product’s layers of detail. One example was how the Bowling Green campus could be covered with snow during winter months with the click of a mouse. Concept 3D offered the University a transformative and interactive platform where it could share vast amounts of information with text, videos, photographs and panoramic vistas with those familiar and unfamiliar with the campus.
Concept 3D got started in February 2017 with the assistance of UTEP staff led by Parker. Jason Czeskleba, the company’s client success manager, praised his UTEP collaborators as good communicators who delivered quality data to Concept’s creative team led by Levi Miller, senior graphic designer.
Czeskleba lauded the end product. He said the artist’s attention to detail brings the campus to life, and the 360-degree panoramas showcase the beauty of UTEP’s natural surroundings. For his part, Miller noted that the campus’s terrain – hills, deserts and arroyos – made the project unique.
“It was challenging, but fun,” Miller said.
William Robertson, professor in the College of Education, recalled being amazed at the new interactive campus map’s capabilities.
“I thought that it was an incredibly practical tool that would be useful for students, visitors and anyone who wanted to know more about our campus,” Robertson said. “The level of information it can provide is so precise down to the floorplan of a building. It goes well beyond telling someone how to get from point A to point B. It will help market the University.”
Logan Martin, junior theatre arts major, said he often used paper maps to get around campus as a practicum student to deliver posters promoting upcoming theater projects. He said he heard about the new map last fall and began to use it.
“It’s so much easier,” said Martin, who now is a teaching assistant. “You type the name of a building into your phone and there it is. It’s very practical.”
He said he promotes the map with new students, especially the new theater practicum students who have taken over his job of delivering posters. He still uses the map during registration to know if he has enough time to get from one building to another and the proximity of Miner Metro shuttle stops.
Greg McNicol, associate vice president for business affairs – facilities management, and Parker said the next steps include adding to the menu with such amenities as campus tours, public art locations, direct accessible paths between buildings, and showing the locations of the Miner Metro shuttles in real time as they move along their routes.
Members of the campus’s Map Advisory Committee, which represent all aspects of the University, meet monthly to offer suggestions on how to enhance the map. Some initial ideas were to include such service-oriented information as locations of ATMs, AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators), lactation stations, computer labs and single occupancy/family restrooms, bike racks, and electric car charging stations.
“The committee knows what’s important to best serve their students and their programs,” McNicol said. “We’ll continue to tweak (the map) to make it better.”