After months of studying maps and building a web-based historic walking tour for the Carmel Clay Historical Society, Braydon Fox has become an expert on the “Old Town” of Carmel.
The 21-year-old Ball State computer science major from Anderson, Indiana, can easily tell you the Monon Depot Museum was built in 1883, serving as a stop for passenger and freight trains until the early 1970s, and what is now Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream was once a commerce center for harvested grains.
“Every day for nearly six weeks, I stared at the maps in order to build the website,” said Fox, who was in charge of project development and overall communications with the historical society. “We came down here a few times to walk the streets to make sure everything was right where it was supposed to be.
“I was working on campus and saw a flier for the project a few months ago and thought that would be a perfect project for me,” he said. “Now, it’s neat to pull up the website on my phone and walk around to see this community’s history. I hope people can learn from the past by our work.”
A boost from GPS
The Carmel Clay Historical Society recently unveiled its new interactive walking experience. The program launched at a late April press conference with Mayor Jim Brainard showing it off.
The new website uses GPS coordinates to indicate the location of historic sites throughout Carmel, and users can turn on their GPS as they walk through the Arts & Design District and Old Town areas.
By using a smartphone or other mobile device, people can view each site, which includes a historic photograph, a written narrative of the site’s significance and an audio recording.
“In the last few years, Carmel has really built up its central core,” said Emily Ehrgott, executive director of the Carmel Clay Historical Society. “We are trying to become a walking and biking community. However, with the changing facades and buildings that are being remodeled, it is still important to remember what was here before.”
The partnership between Ball State and the historical society was funded through the City of Carmel Arts Grant Program and Hamilton County Tourism Inc., she noted.
“With Carmel getting so big, it is important to remember our past so we can move on to the future,” said Ehrgott. “We are very thankful that we have such technologically advanced students from Ball State who did a wonderful job.”
Professor continues immersive learning projects
The project is a result of several months of work by students in an immersive learning class taught by Ron Morris, a Ball State history professor who has led dozens of similar learning experiences during the last decade.
Morris was speaking at a conference in 2017 about building a walking tour app when a Carmel Clay Historical Society member suggested the current project.
“Over the last few years Ball State students have worked on a variety of walking tour experiences throughout Indiana and Kentucky,” he said. “In each case, we think we have added to the value of the local community by showcasing its history. And our students have gotten hands-on experience in building the applications that will feature their skills to employers, making them extremely marketable in a society that uses mobile devices for just about everything.”
Looking good to employers
The project’s initial phase focused on sites in Old Town, but Ball State students are already developing Phase II, which features sites throughout Clay Township — including historic farms and homes.
This multiphase project was attractive to many students, including Fox, who were looking for a new experience to showcase their talents to future employers.
“Although I am employed as a student classroom tech at Ball State and have lots of experience as a college student, I felt this project would make me more marketable when I go looking for a job,” Fox said. “There was a huge learning curve because I had never done a web-based application before, but I was ready to learn. I wanted that project that says to a company that I can do the job.”