After spending the school year working with Carver County communities, a group of University of Minnesota students wrapped up its projects last week. More than 300 students participated in the Resilient Communities Project, and their 32 projects tackled subjects from augmented reality to mobile home communities.

“It was a very successful partnership,” said Mike Greco, director of the U’s Resilient Communities Project. “The variety of the projects made it a very interesting year for us.”

Through their courses, students met with county government officials and agencies in the county throughout the year to research and prepare their innovative solutions for problems the county is facing.

Sam Rosner, 24, a graduate student in public health, showcased her final project to U officials and her peers at a poster presentation at the U’s McNamara Alumni Center last week. Rosner spent the year meeting with residents in two mobile home communities in Chaska, holding focus groups to examine residents’ barriers to a healthy lifestyle. In one mobile home community, some of the residents said they did not have time to prepare healthy meals or could not afford to spend money on healthier foods.

“They wanted more activities to do together,” she said. “A lot of residents were really interested in community gardens.” Rosner said her project was part of a county needs assessment to recommend healthy lifestyle programming for the residents. At the student showcase, Rosner won the outstanding student project award.

The U’s partnership with the county was its first. In the past, the U has partnered only with cities.

Historic virtual reality

A project that caught the attention of attendees at the student showcase was a virtual reality app designed to give a historic tour of the Andrew Peterson farmstead in Waconia. The app allows visitors to view the property as it was in the 1800s with its historic apple trees. App users can even see the farm up close from anywhere.

“Because we don’t have a tour guide on [the property] all the time, we have to rely on self-guided tours,” said Wendy Petersen Biorn, Carver County Historical Society executive director.

Biorn said the farm was fully documented in pictures in 1885, which allowed the U students to overlay the old pictures on what the property now looks like using the virtual program.

Terrence Caploe, 31, a U senior, was one of the students who worked with the Carver County Historical Society on the project. Caploe said he will continue working on the project along with other U students throughout the summer.

“The framework is there for a really fantastic application for this site,” he said.

While most students have completed their projects, county officials hope they come back soon to work for the county.

“We hope some students will make Carver County home after graduation,” said James Ische, chairman of the Carver County Board. “I am confident we are going to see the benefits of [the Resilient Communities Project] for years to come.”