How a Student Fought Sweat, Suspicion and Vast Distances to Help You Navigate Campus
It’s a simple, sensible idea: Embed photos of buildings into the University of Maryland’s interactive web map to help people find their way around.
When Facilities Management in June offered summer worker Tamer Bannourah ’20 the job of taking the photos, it also sounded like a relaxing way to spend a few weeks strolling around campus.
“I was like, ‘Sure, sounds good,’ so they gave me the camera,” the computer engineering student said. “I didn’t know it would take 100 percent of my time for the rest of the summer.”
It quickly became clear this wasn’t a stroll, as Bannourah struggled to track down buildings that seemingly didn’t want to be found, dealt with employees suspicious of his picture-taking in a few of them, and traversed up to 10 miles a day at the hottest time of the year. Most of the photos are now in the map, while a few are still being processed.
“My attitude basically was, I’m on a crusade to get every building on campus,” he said. “I’m going to do what I have to do.”
In hindsight, Bannourah now knows that what he had considered the UMD campus—a few academic buildings, the Stamp for an occasional lunch, the sidewalks in between—was only a small chunk of the real thing. Over the next few months, he would experience the actual extent of campus and its 340 or so buildings mostly on foot.
While he’d imagined deliberating over the best angles on iconic UMD edifices like McKeldin Library or the new A. James Clark Hall, he spent more time hunting for buildings that generally go unnoticed.
“You search and search,” he said. “Finally when you find it, it’s registered, it’s got a building number, but it’s basically a shack.”
A standard polo-and-khakis work uniform gave way to T-shirts and gym shorts. “The worst part was the heat and the sweating,” he said. “Some days, I’d go to the office to dry off and hope I wasn’t too smelly.”
When he went to shoot pictures of the inside and outside of the University of Maryland Police Department’s Police Services and Training Facility, an officer on duty gave him a double take but let him go about his business. But employees at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute were even more leery. “They were like, ‘What are you doing here? Come inside—we have some questions for you.’”
Bannourah used a step counter, and found that on many days of shooting, he was walking around 20,000 steps—or about 10 miles. This was partly because of the size of campus, and partly because of his preferred way of working. Instead of shooting pictures of all the buildings in a given area and then moving elsewhere, he went down the list of UMD buildings, ticking them off in their numbered order.
“If I hit a building and then had to walk all the way across campus to do the next one on the list, I’d do that,” he said. “You could say I’m very methodical.”
Though lacking any photography background, Bannourah found himself increasingly thinking about the aesthetics of his shots, and began taking general scenic ones of campus as well.
“I think he discovered a another side of himself—a creative side none of us saw coming,” said Julie Kromkowski, special assistant to the associate vice president in Facilities Management, who helped oversee the project. “Isn’t that kind of what college is all about?”
Bannourah doesn’t see himself abandoning his focus on working on robotics and other projects combining hardware and software development, but he’s not ready to put down the borrowed camera just yet. When the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation opens in 2019, he hopes he gets the call to shoot it.
Even the “shacks” still call to him.
“There’s this building I didn’t even know existed until like two days ago,” he said. “I was like agh, I didn’t get it.”
Check out some of Bannourah's campus photos: