U. Central Florida junior a model student

By Camille Thomas

U. Central Florida junior digital media major Chris Sardinas has been recognized as the only finalist from North America in Google’s Model Your Town Competition. Citizens around the world were asked to create 3-D community portraits of their hometowns.

“[My family and friends] are all really happy for me,” Sardinas said Friday, the day before the winner was announced. “They congratulate me all the time for getting the key to the city and being recognized by Google.”

The competition, part of Google Sketch Up, allowed individuals or groups from around the world to make a digital model of their hometowns using free programming provided by Google.

Models were judged on the quality of how “true-to-life” the model was, such as accuracy, loading efficiency and elegance, according to Google’s competition rules. Jorge De Albertis Bettocchi won the competition for his model of the Barranco District of Lima, Peru.

Sardinas said it took him about nine months and thousands of photographs to make the model of West Palm Beach.

The process may sound relatively simple, but it is actually quite complicated and time-consuming. First, Sardinas would choose a specific building or street to focus on.

He took tons of photos of the specific subject from all angles and used satellite imagery, or Google Earth, to get the bird’s-eye view images of the locations.

He then used Google Sketch Up and Adobe Photoshop to merge the two together. The result is what is currently shown on Google Earth for the West Palm Beach area.

Sardinas said he began making digital models as a hobby during his senior year of high school and found out about the competition from a friend in the modeling community.

“I was very, very pleased to find out I was one of the finalists. It was nerve-racking to wait for the results,” Sardinas said. “I thought, ‘I’m doing it, I might as well just enter.’ ”

Though Sardinas’ model did not win, just getting positive attention from a name like Google as a finalist is enough for West Palm Beach, said Peter Robbins, the public information officer for West Palm Beach.

The winner of the competition earned prizes, which include $10,000 for the city’s public school district, a visit from a Google team and viral publicity on the web, according to Google.

“It started out as a hobby that I was already doing. There’s nothing in it for me besides temporary notoriety,” Sardinas said. “The competition is for the pride of the hometown and not for the actual person.”

Sardinas said that recognition from the contest, in addition to his volunteer work with Google Earth, might land him a job with Google.

He also said Google invited him to a conference for model makers last month in Zurich, Switzerland, which gives him a boost in confidence toward an opportunity for a job.

Some of the credit, Sardinas said, goes to UCF, for the programs he has learned that he hopes to apply to his future career.

“Being out on my own, having to work in the real world, taking art classes, and learning the different programs [has prepared me] because the technology keeps changing in the field,” Sardinas said. “Hopefully I could step into [a job with Google] after the contest is over and after school is over since they already know who I am.”

In turn, West Palm Beach showed its appreciation for the representation of the city.

Along with receiving a key to the city, May 3 was proclaimed Chris Sardinas Day during a conference with West Palm Beach officials.

Robbins was impressed with Sardinas.

“The fact that he did this all on his own showed pride in the city and determination,” Robbins said. “We wanted to learn what he did and how he did it. It was fun and very exciting.

“He seems like a guy who worked hard at this. We were not surprised. From day one, we could tell he was a very smart guy.”

Despite not being named the winner, Sardinas is just happy to have been recognized by Google and given the opportunity to help out West Palm and UCF.

“I think West Palm Beach has a lot of diversity,” Robbins said. “The city is becoming a more international city, though we’ve always been a tourist [destination].

“We are a community that hopefully challenges people and helps open doors. Hopefully, a lot of people have pride in the community. Chris definitely does.”

Read more here: http://www.centralfloridafuture.com/ucf-junior-a-model-student-1.2266286
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