Community modeling in Madison, NJ

Monday, March 2, 2009 at 4:10 PM


Madison, New Jersey took a big step towards becoming only the second town in the US to organize a community effort to develop a 3D model of their downtown for Google Earth.

It all started with Mayor Mary-Anna Holden attending the National Main Street Conference
last year. This conference is attended by community leaders from around the country who want to learn about creative ways to promote their downtowns. Google attended the event and presented how McMinnville, Tennessee had used Google SketchUp to model their downtown.

Attendees, including Mayor Holden, saw the potential that such a model could have on their town and kept asking, “How do we do this?"

In Mayor Holden’s case, the answer rested with the son of her neighbor, a young man by the name of Teddy Bogdanski. Mayor Holden
approached Teddy, a Boy Scout, with an idea for an Eagle Scout project, which lead an effort to model Madison.

Soon after they spoke, I received an email from Teddy asking if Google would be willing to support the effort. How could I decline an Eagle Scout? I replied that we would. A date was established where my colleagues and I would travel to Madison and conduct a short training effort on the use of SketchUp to model for Google Earth.


With Googlers agreeing to visit his town, Teddy had work to do to ensure that his project was a success. His role was that of a coordinator & project manager, and he did a stupendous job.

We’d conducted product training before, but not an abbreviated one with a focus on creating textured models for Google Earth. While we did this, Teddy was hard at work collecting volunteers and approval to use his high school computer lab. I’m not sure who had the tougher job: Teddy or us... but I’m pretty sure it was Teddy.

When we walked into Madison High School early Saturday morning we were greeted by Teddy, his parents, teachers, and 25 volunteers eager to help. It was awesome. We got right to work.

Aidan Chopra, the author of SketchUp for Dummies, kicked the day off with a short lesson on the basics of SketchUp. Craig D’Andrea from our team followed with a demonstration and instruction on how to apply digital photos to 3D SketchUp models. Within an hour the mice were flying, the keyboards were clicking, and hands were being raised. The three of us spent the remainder of the day providing support to the group.

Models of downtown began to take shape, and within a few hours a number of models were already completed. Smiles were crossing the faces of those finishing models as they pointed at their screens with pride. Madison was quickly becoming a virtual city.

Teddy and his group of volunteers have scheduled two subsequent meetings to complete their downtown. We look forward to seeing their models in Google Earth very soon, and wish them the best in their efforts.

We would like to encourage other towns to follow the lead of these pioneers. If you have questions about how to proceed, please visit the Cities in 3D Program.