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NNHS StudentsBowing to Kara Robbins request for more “feel good” stories – here’s my contribution.

Three sophomores at Newton North, Kavish Gandhi, Alex Slocum and Adam Elghazzawi, are working on creating a very interesting web site for the people of Upper Falls.  The project is called Upper Falls Live History Map and its a Google Maps-meets-Wikipedia sort of thing.  The general idea is that the site will present a Google Map of the Upper Falls neighborhood.  Users can then click on buildings or other places on the map and enter text, photos, videos, etc about what they know about that specific place. Over time as more and more people add content it will slowly collect the combined living memories of the residents about their neighborhood.

The students are part of a web development class taught by Upper Falls resident Chris Murphy.  They spent the last term learning all the basic web development skills.  At the beginning of this term the word went out that class would volunteer to work on outside groups’ web sites.   At the moment, different students are working on sites for various community groups, local businesses, etc.   The Live History Maps project is a bit more ambitious than the other projects since it involves a hodgepodge of advanced web skills (SQL databases, Google Maps API, php, JQuery, etc) that the students haven’t covered in their classes.  The three sophomores were unfazed by the challenge and have jumped in with both feet and are picking up the requisite skills as they go along.

So far, they’ve made good progress.  The database is up and running.  Their site is talking to Google maps.  The pieces are all starting to come together.  If all goes well, the project will be completed in a few months.  Once completed, the Upper Falls Area Council is planning to throw a kickoff party – they’ll fill Upper Falls’ Emerson Center with laptops, scanners and volunteers and begin tapping the memories, particularly of the older residents, for posterity.

While this started as strictly a local project, the students have already received a few inquiries about whether it could be used in other places for other purposes once it’s built.   The general idea of using this map based tool for “crowd sourcing” local information seems like a generally useful idea well beyond Upper Falls.

Take a look at a very simple demonstration that will get across the general concept.  Note this demo site is just that, the real site will be quite a  bit more involved and full of additional features.