hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 15, 2012

Seeing Haverhill from the sky

Students' 3-year project produced mini downtown

By Tim McCarthy

Students of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School are giving people a bird's eye view of Haverhill.

For the past three years, students of Whittier's computer-assisted drafting program have worked on a 1-inch to 184-feet scale model of the city's downtown, complete with miniature buildings, bridges and even lighted walkways.

Normally shown only during Whittier's open house events, the model made a public appearance last month during Team Haverhill's 2012 Possible Dreams event, which drew more than 100 spectators. Each year, the Team Haverhill civic organization has a public meeting to set goals for the city. Much of the year's meeting focused on the downtown.

Scott Robertson, a CAD instructor, said the 5-by-12-foot model is the largest creation yet by the school's CAD department.

"I don't anticipate seeing one this size in a while," he said.

Whittier students started working on the project in 2008, following the unveiling of downtown Haverhill's river walk plan. The model highlights the river walk, consisting of downtown streets and the Bradford rail trail, using a series of colored LED lights. Notable historic buildings are also highlighted with lights.

Last fall, the CAD teachers and students expanded the project by adding new buildings and features that have sprung up, including the new five-story downtown parking garage. Students who worked on updating and revising the model over the year include juniors Eric Pomer, Nathan Bernard and Ben Colby, along with seniors Nathan Cambra, Ryan Ahern and Alisha Nollet.

To make the model appear more realistic, students collected satellite images of the roads and buildings to apply to each figure. Almost every detail, right down to the neon sign of Market Basket at Central Plaza, is accounted for.

Students from Whittier's electronics department assisted in developing the lighting system of the model and couldn't help feel a little envious of the CAD project.

"I wish we would have been able to do a project like this," said Amalia Mendoza, a senior.

Jack Ulrich, senior CAD instructor, said the model has seen no shortage of pranks, with students placing all sorts of movie monsters in the mini downtown.

Currently, Whittier and Team Haverhill are looking for a suitable home for the project to display year round.

"We'd love to see it find a home and place to be displayed," said Alice Mann, president of team Haverhill.