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University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering
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Highly Accurate Digital Map to help with Campus Planning

About a year and a half ago, UW-Madison landscape architect Richard Fayram decided it was time to update the campus' master map, which had become quite outdated due to thousands of structural and topographical changes. So he discussed the matter with Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Alan P. Vonderohe, an expert in land information systems, and an idea was born: create a three-dimensional, digital campus map that would eventually replace the multitude of flat maps documenting the campus. "This was an excellent example of administration and academia working together to solve a problem," says Vonderohe.

Detailed aerial photo

This is one of many detailed aerial photos of UW-Madison that is being used to create a 3-D digital map. (large image)

Since the project's inception, dozens of others have become involved in this high-tech endeavor. The list includes Professor Frank L. Scarpace and Associate Professor David F. Mezera, both of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; students in classes such as a graduate seminar on geospacial information who helped write the project proposal; and a handful of student assistants and staff who hold paid positions for the project.

Various reference points throughout campus were marked with an X and high-resolution aerial photos were taken. Accurate coordinates for the reference points were determined using satellites and traditional surveying methods. The aerial photographs were scanned and now require about 60 gigabytes of disk storage space. Special computer software was used to analyze the data and produce a map with extremely accurate positions and spatial relationships that will aid future planning.

The 3-D map should be completed by the end of summer, says Vonderohe. Then the team will work on additional applications, although those have not been finalized.

Fayram and Vonderohe would like to see the university use the results of this $460,000 project as the core of a spatial information system for the Division of Facilities Planning and Management. Such an information system could support many applications, such as assisting with the implementation of the campus master plan, they say.