CAMDEN — Just by sitting in front of a computer Thursday afternoon, several Rutgers-Camden students likely improved recovery efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

During a 75-minute "Edit-A-Thon," hosted by the school's Digital Studies Center, students worked on creating digital maps of the region to indicate where buildings once stood and who may be cut off from access.

"In Puerto Rico there are areas that have not been mapped digitally, that are not easily accessible via a tool like Google Maps," explained the center's director, Jim Brown. "When aid workers go to Puerto Rico post-storm, they may have a difficult time knowing exactly what it is that was there prior to the storm wiping out all the infrastructure."

The 20-plus students volunteering their time got the ball rolling on creating an extra layer of digital data — with lines and shapes that can indicate the former locations of buildings, roads and power lines, for example. Participants use pre-storm images as a template.

The project was performed on the OpenStreetMap platform that anyone can edit and anyone can access and use. The American Red Cross asked that this data be provided by anyone willing to help.

"This now doesn't require you to look at a map and scour it when trying to deliver aid," Brown said. "You now can look at a digital version of that map that makes it clear."

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