Three Paragould High School EAST students have put Paragould on the virtual map.

Virtual 3-D scale models of two PHS buildings were accepted recently by Google Inc., the Internet software and application giant. The models appear on Google Earth's server and are viewable by any Google Earth user, worldwide.

The models are the first to populate the Paragould Google Earth landscape and the first Northeast Arkansas buildings created by non-professionals.

"I was surprised when I found out," Sareena Morrow said. "I didn't think they would be accepted. I didn't really know if they would like them or not."

"When we did get accepted I'm like 'No way,'" Destiny Forbes said. "I figured everyone would eventually give up on it because it was one of those long tasks that you really have to have a set mind to do it. A lot of people that had buildings gave up on doing them if it took longer than a few days ... I'm surprised we made it that far."

"I originally thought I'll build the building but it probably won't get anywhere; I really never thought it was going to be accepted," Krystal Ashcraft said. "I just figured, they'd look at it like some high schooler built this, it won't be worth our time looking at. When it got accepted it was really surprising to me."

Forbes was co-designer of a greenhouse. She said the project began with small-scale designs of furniture.

"We had started exploring Sketchup with just building furniture and Mr. (Mike) Jadwin (PHS EAST facilitator) gave us the idea of designing this school," Forbes said.

"We really wanted to get involved in the community and when he presented this challenge it was a good way to do so," Ashcraft said.

The girls used Google SketchUp, a versatile design program Forbes' co-designer Ashcraft said can be used to "make buildings, furniture; you can pretty much build anything in it. It's got a lot of tools that will help you bring a plain picture into 3-D."

Ashcraft said several months of practice was necessary to develop a familiarity with SketchUp's controls and features and a further two to three months to complete the modeling.

"You're actually starting with nothing, just a few lines or a block," Ashcraft said. "A lot of it's just using tools."

The modeling process began with the selection of a building. Photographs of the exterior walls and roof were captured. These images would later be mapped onto the skin of the virtual model.

Morrow, who designed the eight-class building, said measurements of the buildings gave the scale and dimensions they used to generate the models in SketchUp. Google checks submitted building models with user-submitted photographs from the street view for accuracy before they are approved and uploaded.

"It's easy to get your measurements in there; it's just afterwards trying to make all the pieces fit together and then sticking your photos on it ... sometimes you run into a little problem or two," Forbes said.

Forbes said taking pictures of the roofs and of frontal views of the buildings because of crowding were challenges. She said a zoom lens and climbing the band director's podium enabled them to take a picture of the roof.

Ashcraft said another problem they encountered and had to solve was uploading their designs. She said the models had to be submitted in a file format they had never encountered before.

The models were warehoused for two weeks before Thursday's approval. Ashcraft said there were 58 views and 15 downloads by other users wanting the models for their own virtual designs.

Ashcraft, Forbes and Morrow said they all plan to continue modeling and submitting buildings to the Google Earth warehouse, but no decisions on future projects have been made.


Information from: Paragould Daily Press,