Sandcastle: A Historical City-Builder for Humanities Scholars

Student Interns

Jasmine Clairsaint
Renee George
Zane Harrison
Jake Heller
Jason Rosenbloum
Ali Rothberg

Project Leads

Ed Triplett
David Zielinski

Year

2021

Description: 

A team of students will work with Duke’s Office of Information Technology and faculty from Art, Art History & Visual Studies to develop a 3D modeling toolkit called Sandcastle, using Houdini -- a visual programming and procedural modeling software that is most frequently used by the special effects industry. This toolkit will serve as an alternative to geographic information systems (GIS) whose primary method of analyzing historical maps is to geo-reference, or stretch them over modern base maps.

The Sandcastle toolkit will be used to translate 15th - 18th century maps and “views” of cities and towns into 3D environments that users can explore and study within the Unreal game engine. While GIS software like ArcGIS has been a very useful tool for digital humanities scholars in the past, the Sandcastle project acknowledges that GIS is too rigidly oriented toward comparison with the modern world, and that a more malleable mapping system is needed to visualize historical images that don’t conform to gridded Cartesian space or mathematical perspective.

Student Participants: 

Renee

George

Renee George
Major: 
Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science
Class: 
Rising Sophomore
Graduation Year: 
2024

I am a rising sophomore in Pratt. I am planning to major in Electrical and Computer Engineering and I live in the Durham area.

Jasmine

Clairsaint

Jasmine Clairsaint
Major: 
Computer Science, Visual and Media Studies
Class: 
Rising Junior
Graduation Year: 
2023

I am a rising junior majoring in Computer Science and Visual Media Studies. I enjoy thrifting and just picked up snowboarding this past winter in Seattle, Washington. I am a 2021 DTech Scholar working on the Sandcastle Project through Code+ this summer.

Jake

Heller

 Jakw Heller
Major: 
Computer Science
Minor: 
Electrical and Computer Engineering, History
Class: 
Rising Junior
Graduation Year: 
2023

Jake is a rising junior studying Computer Science. His interests include Medieval history and linguistics, and he plays clarinet at Duke.

Zane

Harrison

Zane Harrison
Major: 
Computer Science
Minor: 
Environmental Science/Policy
Class: 
Rising Sophomore
Graduation Year: 
2024

I’m from Tyler, Texas. I’ll be a sophomore in the fall studying computer science and philosophy, and some of my favorite activities include camping, scuba diving, and reading. I’m excited to be part of the Code+ team!

Jason

Rosenbloum

 Jason Rosenbloum
Major: 
Economics, Computer Science
Class: 
Rising Sophomore
Graduation Year: 
2024

Jason is a rising sophomore studying computer science and economics here at Duke. Although he is not sure of what area within computer science he wants to concentrate, he has a keen interest in software development. Outside of school, he enjoys running, watching movies, and playing board games with his friends.

Ali

Rothberg

Ali Rothberg
Major: 
Computer Science, English
Class: 
Rising Junior
Graduation Year: 
2023

Team project manager. Ali is a Code+ 2020 alum and rising junior from Westchester, NY studying Computer Science and English and minoring in Visual & Media Studies. She is interested in exploring the digital humanities both in industry and academia through AR/VR, GIS, UI/UX, and data science as it applies to artistic fields.

Project Leads: 

David

Zielinski

David Zielinski
Department: 
Office of Information Technology - Academic & Media Technologies
Title: 
IT Analyst

Ed

Triplett

Ed Triplett
Department: 
ArtArt Historyand Visual & Media Studies
Title: 
Lecturing Fellow of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies