Henley Garcia, 19, a software engineering major, could easily be mistaken for another amateur photographer as he surveys the Kendall Campus decked out with a computer club T-shirt with his iPhone.
However, Garcia is responsible for all 46, 360-degree panoramic pictures of Kendall Campus on Google Maps, netting more than 168,990 views.
“My passion is to make something that will be in the hands of millions of people at once…The project, it will help everyone realize what it is like inside Miami Dade, the Kendall Campus specifically,” Garcia said.
Computer Club moderator Ralph De Arazoza, remembers when Garcia approached him during the fall semester about covering the Kendall Campus on Google Maps.
“I thought it was an absolute brilliant idea,” De Arazoza said. “The College didn’t have a lot of photos on the Google Maps.”
Garcia noticed that the areas in and around Kendall Campus had not been covered by the Google Maps Camera Cars. Taking it on as a public service, he decided to take the pictures himself.
However, Garcia wanted to provide more than just photos. His initial idea was to create a 3D tour of Kendall Campus, as well as upload building maps to help guide new Kendall Campus students and allow citizens from other countries see what colleges are like in the United States.
De Arazoza and Garcia met Kendall Campus CIO Floyd Pittman to request permission for the project in November of last year. Pittman then set up a meeting between them and Kendall Campus President Beverly Moore-Garcia. De Arazoza and Garcia got approval to upload photos and building maps of the Kendall Campus on Google Maps. Garcia could not produce a 3D tour due to the sensitive nature of the information needed to construct it.
With the project approved, the Computer Club organized a group of students to begin operations. However, the team ended up whittling down to Garcia himself, longtime friend David Huerta and Computer Club President Alejandro Cespedes.
“A couple people got behind him, but nobody actually stuck by it,” Cespedes said. “Honestly, I did play a big role in this project, like I made sure he took pictures of every building that he could, but he was the one that dedicated hours upon hours on this project.”
From the mid-fall term to the end of the spring term, Garcia took the photos, with some help from Huerta and management by Cespedes. While working on the project, Garcia needed to be careful not to show license plate numbers or suggestive actions in his pictures.
Most photographs on Google Maps are either taken by Google or private corporations.
“Our base map data (things like place names, borders, and road networks) come from a variety of authoritative public and commercial data sources, user contributions, and imagery references,” said Mara Harris, Google San Francisco-based Maps Global Communications Specialist.
In order to take each photo, Garcia had to go through a specific process on the Google Street View app.
“In the Google Maps photo, you have to take a picture right in front of you and it takes a couple of seconds, and then you have to move to another side, then another side so basically you have to make a 360 picture and go from top to bottom,” Huerta explained.
The picture is then uploaded to Google Maps by an automated process that determines whether the image is of the actual area. Google then enhances the image to be consistent with lighting. Once uploaded, Garcia examines the photo to determine whether it needs to be retaken and where he should go to next.
When not focused on the Google Street View project, Garcia spends his time studying, learning about computers and enjoying Sherlock Holmes mysteries. He also helps his parents run Hemag Inc, a security system supplier started by his father, Eberto Garcia.
While Henley Garcia’s photos have been uploaded, the building maps are still in the process of being approved as they require review by Google personnel. Garcia hopes to extend the scope of the project to all MDC campuses after completing his work at Kendall Campus.