Creating such a system called for a thorough understanding of the GTFS format. Smith conducted the necessary research and eventually came up with something. “Listen, I jumped and touched the ceiling,” he said of the moment he realised that his system worked. “What I was doing before was like transferring data cell to cell in an Excel spread sheet. Now I could click a button and it would just…” The acid test came, however, when he had to go back to Google who would then verify that everything in the feed is actually what exists in real life. The data went live on Google Maps in May 2015 and is accessible through the Google Maps app. So how does a full-time student juggle his extra duties while keeping up with assignments, lectures, and exams? “It boiled down to time management and a lot of early mornings and late nights,” he said. Smith hopes to pursue graduate studies in a year or two. He sees himself fitting into “some sort of technical entrepreneurship.” Smith averred that he’s always been an entrepreneur. He recalled what he did when his parents refused to buy him the electronic brick game (Tetris) he wanted when he was 10 years old. “I saved my lunch money, went to the wholesale store and bought these small candies and started reselling. I was always seeing ways to get things done.” Smith wants to undertake more transit work in other Caribbean territories—this time as a paid consultant. He joked that his pro bono days are long behind him. And while the initial job was free, he now has a paid contract with JUTC to maintain the system. The public launch on August 25 was televised and covered extensively by the Jamaica media. “To see everybody out there. That’s when it hit home.” By everybody he meant senior JUTC officials, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona Campus Professor Archibald McDonald, other senior campus officials, and members of the travelling public. People still stop him on the street to say how much having the new system means to them. And while he didn’t need to involve the lecturers in the actual project, he thanked the University for creating “an atmosphere of possibility.” He singled out
Faculty Liaison Dr. Curtis Busby-Earle for his role. Smith’s family was also at the launch. That meant the most to him. His dad has passed, but his mom, siblings and even a visiting cousin were present to support. He laughed when he spoke about his mom’s reaction to all he’d accomplished. “She opened her eyes wide and said ‘you young people and this technology.’” As a child he was the one always tinkering with computers and electronics, ruining several appliances in the process. Hear that, parents. Let them play!
And in case you were wondering, no—Smith was not paid, nor did he get any extra credits for his work. The project was purely extracurricular.
THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14 –