Student Creates Interactive Off-Campus Housing Map
Computer information systems major Patrick Fero put his classroom knowledge to use to benefit peers in search of off-campus housing.
Last year during an Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Quality of Life town-gown meeting, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Kathryn “Katy” Wilson suggested a unique idea: a digital, interactive map that would provide Brockport students with accurate and detailed information about off-campus housing options in the Village of Brockport.
One person in the room, Associate Professor of Social Work Jason Dauenhauer, already knew the map would be possible to create — thanks to talented students in the Department of Computing Sciences.
“In fall of 2016, the Historic Preservation Board wanted technical assistance to promote historic homes,” said Dauenhauer, who serves on the board. “Lucky for us, Mehruz Kamal, an associate professor in the Department of Computing Sciences, was teaching a course that required students to assist a local business or organization with a short-term service learning project.”
Through that service learning–based course, CIS 487, students Patrick Fero ’17 (pictured below) and Colton Howard ’16 had produced a template using Google Maps for the board to identify historic homes in the Village.
Dauenhauer called upon the expertise of Fero, who was entering his final semester at Brockport and on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems in May 2017. They teamed up with Assistant Director of Student Union and Activities Ryan Giglia and the Village of Brockport’s Code Enforcement Officer David Miller to make Wilson’s vision a reality.
“Their vision included the use of a visual aid, similar to the work I performed previously, but they didn’t have the necessary resources to initiate such content,” said Fero. “That’s where I came in.”
While Fero’s project for the Historic Preservation Board required the identification of between 10 and 15 houses on an interactive map, his new undertaking would involve hundreds of locations and information about each, including the address, class (e.g., apartment, single-family rental, double-family rental, etc.), the Certificate of Occupancy expiration date, the number of bedrooms, and more. Map users can even use Google Street View to observe the outside of a home and its surroundings right from their devices. Check it out.
“This information wasn’t readily available to students before the introduction of the map,” said Giglia. “The idea is to give them more information — more accurate information — straight from the Village codes, so they can become better consumers and make educated decisions about where they’re going to live.”
The mobile-friendly map holds landlords accountable for meeting Villages codes, maintaining valid Certificates of Occupancy, and renting to the recommended number of occupants based on the size of their units.
Miller receives an increasing number of calls from students and parents regarding questions about rental properties and their Certificates of Occupancy.
“The interactive map has already proved itself as an integral tool in helping ensure that current and accurate information surrounding rental properties in the Village is at the fingertips of parents, students, and other residents,” said Miller, who serves as a building inspector. “It has also helped locate rental properties that were not following rental laws as required by the Village, resulting in swift action by the Building & Code Enforcement Department to ensure full compliance with applicable laws.”
Fero credits Kamal and Associate Professor of Computer Science Anthony Scime for teaching him the technical and organizational skills needed for the project. Other projects originated through Kamal’s service learning course include a community calendar, an interactive map of Village parks, and a Village tree inventory system.
While Fero’s work constituted the initial launch of the map, new features and modifications, including a “red, yellow, and green system” reflecting apartments’ Certificates of Occupancy, became visions for future iterations. Giglia hopes to assign another student to enhancing the project this spring.
“The map will hopefully be improved upon by future computer science students looking to gain experience in the field while providing value to their community,” said Fero, who became a senior IT analyst of supply chain cloud applications at Corning Incorporated after graduating. “I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this technology and its capabilities.”