Fort Wayne trails connect technology path

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (ADAMS) – Fort Wayne trails are going digital. IPFW computer science students and the city are testing a new app that would help navigate over 100 miles of trails and track mileage and achievements. The city says that in the past ten years, the Fort Wayne area has seen tremendous growth in the trail network both inside and outside the City limits. Trail extensions have grown the regional network so that it now connects destinations throughout the county. We’ve grown from 42 miles in 2008 to more than 107 miles in 2018.

More trails bring more trail users and that presents new challenges and new opportunities. Trail users are interested in tracking mileage and achievements; some may not be familiar with new trail reaches and want maps and information about nearby amenities; weather issues may cause some portions of the trails to be closed from time to time, and trail users need to know. In addition, trail users want to be able to report maintenance issues with pinpoint photo accuracy even in more remote wooded areas.

For the past three years, the City of Fort Wayne and students on the Computer Science Senior Capstone Teams from IPFW’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science have been working on an app that will assist trail users by providing more information about the trail system on their smart phones.

After thousands of hours of work, 2017-18 IPFW Capstone Team members Brandon Young, Connor Julian, Andrea Moorman, and Bailey Whitehill have advanced the trail tracker app to a point of testing. A pre-determined group of volunteers is interacting with the app with the understanding that developers will use their feedback to refine the app and guide improvements.

“It has been a great, but rewarding challenge,” said team leader and IPFW student, Brandon Young. “This project fully applied our knowledge of algorithms, code writing, social authentication and drawing maps. We needed to define a way to convert distance traveled on a trail map to actual time traveled, and we wanted to monitor activity data. The technological and intellectual challenge was fantastic – but the real reward was keeping our eye on the end game of how the app will be used.”

“My role was primarily ensuring ease of navigation and the aesthetics to make the app appealing to users,” said Connor Julian, IPFW student and app designer. “Certainly we want the app to be inviting to users – but it also must provide practical and useful information that will help users as they use the trail. I’m anxious to get feedback from our Beta testers.”

The students worked long hours to research, define and create an app that would serve trail user needs and meet the City’s expectations. Defining GPS tracking for a trail that winds away from roads and rivers presented unique challenges that had students defining check points, and testing the time it took to travel between check points.

“We are thrilled to have our students partner with the City for real world experience in developing this user friendly app. As their instructor, it was rewarding to see the students apply, with great success, the intricacies they have learned as they developed this app,” said Maxwell Fowler, continuing lecturer of the Computer Science Department.

“I’m amazed at the amount of data, mapping, and drawing, and quality of the work that the students have completed,” said Dawn Ritchie, City of Fort Wayne Greenways and Trails Manager. “We are close to having the app completed and I know our trail users will find it useful.”

The features of the app will be beneficial for both the City and trail users. Users can view past activities, map a route, submit trail maintenance issues with a photo that will define the location, track achievements, and monitor weather and trail closures.

For City trail planners, the app will supply analytics from trail users and track trail usage.

A new group of students from the IPFW Computer Science Department will perform maintenance, take feedback and improve tracking in the 2018-2019 school year.