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Visitors to one of Easton’s historical landmarks soon will have a technological guide to help them understand the importance of the site.

Lafayette’s innovative Technology Clinic is working with officials from Hugh Moore Park, home to the restored Lehigh Canal, the Locktender’s House Museum, 19th Century Industrial Ruins, and other historical structures, to create a computerized walking tour of the area.

Already planned for the park is construction of a Center for Canal History and Technology, which will give visitors the feeling of being in the original industrial complex, called the Abbott Street Works, that once stood on the site.

The student team aims to extend that project by illustrating the 19th century technology used throughout the area.

Founded in 1986, Technology Clinic is a two-semester course that brings together students representing a variety of majors to solve the real-world problems of a business, non-profit organization, or government body.

A mid-year presentation of the plan to local and national park officials is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at Van Wickle Hall.

“What we are developing is a portable way of looking at the park graphically,” says Dan Bauer, Technology Clinic director and professor of anthropology and sociology, “so we’re exploring the use of a tablet PC, with historical information inputted to perform graphically and audibly, so that in some sense you’re carrying with you a historical X-ray machine.”

Bauer’s co-facilitator for the class is Lawrence Malinconico, associate professor of geology and environmental geosciences.

Students are still exploring what would be the best way of using portable technology to explore the park, Bauer says. How well old documents would transfer into a computerized format, the obstacles of using the equipment outside, and cost are all issues under consideration.

The preliminary vision is for visitors to rent a tablet from the learning center and carry it around to various sites identified on a map, clicking on icons to access information. By clicking on an icon of a pile of rocks, for instance, they would see old photographs of a stone furnace, hear people speaking as if they worked specifically with that stone oven, and read information on what was created in the furnace.

“It’s a type of time machine that connects with the past without having to dig up holes in the ground,” Bauer says.

During the first half of the project, students have been responsible for learning as much about the park as possible and have gathered as much historical information, both past and present, about the park as they can, says Daniela Simova ’06 (Sofia, Bulgaria), who is pursuing a B.S. in biology and an A.B. with a major in economics and business.

For example, team members have explored the geographical area; read a former Lafayette student’s thesis about the park; and gathered photos and documents from area archives and libraries about the Glendon Iron Company, which was the firm that ran the iron works on the land, and the businesses along Abbott Street that supported the iron works.

The challenge of the project lies in presenting that information in an interesting format.

“The general idea of coming up with a way of providing information to people, where it’s accessible and engaging, is really important,” Simova says. “This can apply to a lot of different areas you can work with — in this case it’s giving a tour.”

Simova, who’s interested in pursuing a career in marketing, believes this is applicable to other areas of her life.

“You want to have more people want to buy your product, but you also want to know that people choose something not just because it’s the only one available, but because it’s the one they like,” she says.

Not only is Simova learning skills she will carry with her throughout her life, being a part of Technology Clinic has other benefits.

“First of all, you get to work with students from other majors, so you incorporate what they know and can apply it to your own life,” she says. “It’s not the type of project where if you do well your professor gives you an A, it’s a real-life project where if you do well, when you come across a similar situation eventually in the real world, you are going to remember what you learned. And it’s not just learning a concept in a class, it’s actually applying concepts you already know.”

Working with people from other disciplines, whether they are fellow students, professors, or park officials, has given her an understanding of how one area of study can be applied to a variety of interests.

“It’s not as though if you graduate in economics, you have to sit behind a desk and the only interaction you get is with your co-workers and boss,” Simova says. “This has made me think that I want to do work that’s more involved with presenting or disseminating information to people.”

She and the other students have learned about relating to customers, getting feedback, revising the product, and doing it all on deadlines.

“If you have a paper due and miss a deadline, you might get a 10 percent deduction, but in real life, working with people who expect something of you, you have to meet that deadline because your job depends on it,” she explains. “This project teaches us to deal with responsibility, with people’s expectations of you — you just learn to be responsible.”

The other students in Technology Clinic are Tommaso Marsella ’06 (Woonsocket, R.I.), an anthropology and sociology major; Matthew Kemmerer ’06 (Kingston, Pa.), a computer science major; Erik Person ’06 (Bridgewater, N.J.), a geology major; Erik Parker ’06 (Quakertown, Pa.), a computer science major; and Dogan Yiginer ’06 (Cigli/Izmir, Turkey), who is pursuing a B.S. in mechanical engineering and an A.B. with a major in economics and business.

Last semester, a prior Technology Clinic group gave its recommendations for how Lafayette can encourage students to remain engaged with the College after they graduate, which resulted in a new publication, Alumni News for Undergraduates. Another Technology Clinic group gave a mid-year report on its exploration of development opportunities for the riverfront areas of Easton and Phillipsburg.

Recent Technology Clinic projects have resulted in recommendations for improving traffic on Cattell Street and ideas for developing the North 3rd Street corridor at the foot of College Hill in Easton, an automobile tour on CD to boost tourism and local awareness of historical assets in Nazareth and its surrounding rural municipalities, a self-guided tour and other enhancements at Bachmann Publick House in downtown Easton, and improvements in the experiences of patients at the offices of doctors within Lehigh Valley Hospital Physicians Group.

Other Technology Clinic projects in recent years have included a report on creating environmentally friendly hotels, which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection posted on its web site; an interactive web site for the National Canal Museum in downtown Easton; a drunk-driving simulator at Easton’s Weller Center; recommendations for proposed uses of Bachmann Publick House; suggestions to improve fundraising for ProJeCt for People (formerly ProJeCt of Easton); recommendations on a learning center at the National Canal Museum; and a proposal for development in the Slate Belt.

Older projects have included:

  • Promoting the Borough of Roseto, Pennsylvania
  • Reviving Weatherly, Pennsylvania
  • Promoting innovation in plant design for Lockwood Greene Engineering and Air Products
  • Managing work and life at Merck & Co.
  • Improving the organization of residence halls at Lafayette
  • New applications for SERVAC vacuum excavation technology for Filtration Engineering and the Wilkra Company
  • Measuring and improving patient satisfaction for Lehigh Valley Hospital Physicians Group
Categorized in: Academic News