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Preserving the Past with the Future

Of what was once the busy Little Manila community of Stockton 50 years ago, only a few buildings remain. Others have been torn down to make way for the Crosstown Freeway connecting Interstate 5 and State Highway 99. Students from various disciplines at University of the Pacific came together to preserve the history of Little Manila and help make it come to life through virtual modeling.

The Digital Delta Project, spotlighting under-documented populations in the Delta, was initially funded by a $100,000 Pacific Strategic Educational Excellence Development grant. That money helped to hire digital curator Joshua Salyers, and also underwrote the cost of the five-week summer fellowship for four students, and additional funding from the University Library underwrote two more.

Students from a wide range of disciplines, including Jamie Culilap '19 (computer science), Danielle Thomasson '19 (graphic design), Kyle Sabbatino '18 (graphic design), Sarah Kuo '17 (geological and environmental science), Ronnie Sanchez '19 (social sciences) and Hannah Tvergyak '18 (history) came together to create a 3D simulation game in which players could roam around Little Manila and interact with locals. 

The project incorporated digital modeling, mapping, historical and archival research, and conducting interviews with former Little Manila residents. The opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary team was a key component in this project, according to engineering and computer science professor Dan Cliburn, faculty mentor on the project.

"In the professional world, often what computer scientists are doing is helping develop software for people in other disciplines.  So, it's really hard to replicate that in a classroom environment," said Cliburn. "If a student can speak with people from disciplines outside of computer science, that's a really valuable skill. Students who can do that are going to find jobs."

This project has continued to open doors for the students involved. Last September, Culilap and Tvergyak, along with Cliburn and Josh Salyers, attended the 15th Eurographics Workshop on Graphics and Cultural Heritage in Graz, Austria, to present their project and showcase how they were supporting cultural heritage through modern technology.

To learn more about the project and play the interactive game, visit LittleManila.DigitalDeltas.org.

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