Dordt College News

Dordt College in 3-D

May 22, 2012

If you go online to Google Earth, you’ll find half of Dordt’s campus in 3-D.

The rest should be finished by the end of the summer, according to freshman Joseph Jasper.

Joseph Jasper working on adding Dordt's campus to Google EarthJasper is a Google Earth modeler and has created and uploaded models of 329 different buildings to the Google Earth “3D warehouse.” Google Earth reviews submissions and accepts or rejects them for posting. Jasper currently has 189 models that can be viewed on Google Earth’s 3-D map.

Besides Dordt’s campus, Jasper’s models include Dodger Stadium (his personal favorite), the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the US Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the National Air and Space Museum, and the Boeing factory—the largest building in the world—in Everett, Washington. He’s become a recognized expert modeler on Google Earth.

“It’s so creatively satisfying that I often lose track of time,” says Jasper about the work. Dodger Stadium took him nearly 25 hours to complete; Dordt’s B.J. Haan Auditorium probably about four. By the time he completes Dordt’s entire campus, he’ll have well over 200 hours in.

“I’ve been a nerd for years,” he says unapologetically and with a hearty chuckle. He started teaching himself 3-D modeling four years ago, as a freshman at Whittier (California) Christian High School. He’s been at it ever since. He created most of the Dordt buildings he’s completed so far during the first couple of weeks on campus, although he admits that he’s slowed down since then.

“Social life and my studies have been taking more time than they did before,” he says, adding that he’s had a great first year. He plans to get back to it more intensively this summer.

Jasper is a secondary education history major.

“I didn’t think I’d want to sit in front of a computer all day,” he says, even though he’s pretty computer savvy. He likes interacting with people. Modeling as a hobby gives it just the right place in his life—he can look forward to creating as a break from his other work, not as something that takes over this life.

Even though Jasper has joined the ranks of an elite group of modelers, he refuses to work for pay, believing it would no longer allow him to treat it as a hobby.

“I do it for fun,” he says. “I want to give enjoyment to other people and help people and organizations I feel connected to.” In addition to creating the Dordt College campus, Jasper has created a complete 3-D model of Meadowbrook Village Christian Retirement Community.

Jasper begins with photographs—lots of them. For prominent buildings he’s never seen in person, he scours the Internet for photos taken from different angles. He prefers to start with his own photos, though. He’s already taken about 750 photos of the Dordt College campus to help him create his models. Taking his own photographs gives him consistent lighting and straight-on shots he can paste on to his sketches.

He then builds the models with Trimble Sketchup software. Once the buildings are drawn to size, photos are applied. It’s a labor of love as he watches each model come to life. He posts his creations for fellow modelers to rate and critique.

At the beginning, Jasper received many suggestions and tips from fellow modelers—an unofficial working group of people who share with and learn from each other. Today he gets fewer suggestions and mostly top ratings so he can build what he wants rather than well-known or popular buildings that will get him noticed. The reputation he’s built among those who know 3-D modeling means that almost anything he submits today will be looked at.


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