Community Networking Project
Troy and Rensselaer County, New York

Project Overview

The Community Networking Project was initiated in 1997 by faculty, staff, and students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with support from the Strategic Initiatives Program at Rensselaer. It has been sustained with additional support from the City of Troy, Rensselaer County, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rensselaer, and the 3Com, Intel, and MapInfo corporations. The project is exploring the feasibility of using Internet and World Wide Web technologies to promote economic and social development in Troy and Rensselaer County. Its ongoing activities include creation and maintenance of a community web called TroyNet, the design and implementation of technology-education programs for young people, the development of a municipal area network for the City of Troy, and the development of community-oriented and community-owned software, including a youth-services database, currently in progress.

A Community Web

Faculty and students at Rensselaer have partnered with the City of Troy to create and maintain a community web--TroyNet--that is currently being used to attract visitors, new residents, and new businesses to Troy and that can also be used by community members to achieve their own goals for social, cultural, and economic growth. Guided by civic, government, and business leaders, TroyNet features a community events calendar, City Government and Historic Arts District pages, and virtual tours.

Developed by Rensselaer students and maintained by Troy's RiverSpark Visitor Center, the community events calendar provides a daily listing of Troy's current events. The City Government pages include agendas and minutes of the City's Planning Commission and Zoning Board, results of City planning efforts, and information about the latest City Government initiatives. The Historic Arts District pages publicize Troy's ambitious new project designed to attract creative professionals to live and work in downtown Troy. These pages present information about properties available in the Arts District and about some of the resident artists and their work. The virtual tours provide panoramic vistas of downtown Troy and the hills of the Oakwood Cemetery, which overlooks Troy from the north.

Technology-Education Programs

Rensselaer faculty and students have also developed content for TroyNet in a course titled Web Design for Community Networking and have partnered with Rensselaer County and the Ark, an after-school program for young people in downtown Troy, to offer instruction in new communication technologies to young people for the purpose of preparing them for employment and productive careers and encouraging them to pursue further education in fields such as computer science and electronic media.

In the Web Design course, undergraduate and graduate students work on teams with community leaders to create information and publicity materials that accomplish community goals. Students typically bring to their work a wide range of skills in graphic design, programming, database development, and interface design and use these skills to produce web content that is both artistically creative and practically useful. At the Ark, a children's arts and technology after-school program, undergraduate and graduate students have worked with young people from low-income families to help them to develop skills in desktop publishing, web design, and the production of documentary video. The young people develop valuable skills and new career interests, and the undergraduate and graduate student/instructors learn about the "digital divide" and create exciting "digital opportunities" for young people. The program has been generously supported by the Rensselaer County Department of Employment and Training and local foundations.

Municipal Area Network

Troy City Government and Rensselaer faculty and staff are leading an effort to bring high-speed broadband networking technology to Troy for use by citizens, community organizations, schools, and businesses--to create, in effect, a "municipal area network." The Community Networking Project supports this effort by helping to shape the vision, by participating in the planning, and by assisting in the fund-raising efforts.

Community-Oriented Software

Rensselaer faculty and undergraduate and graduate students also work on several community software-development projects, aimed at community ownership of the community network and web. These projects include databases with web interfaces supporting the Artist District and the sale of the City's tax-foreclosed properties and, more recently, a youth-services database, called Connected Kids, which will permit community youth-services organizations to share information about youth services at a central web location. The database will permit youth-services administrators, teachers, parents, and students in Troy and Lansingburgh schools to access information about recreational, educational, and employment and training opportunities in Troy and Rensselaer County. The database will also include graphic illustrations of young people's creative work and their school, after-school, and vacation activities. Rensselaer faculty and students are working with the Troy Housing Authority to help children to develop computing, writing, and drawing skills and, in the process, to produce art work and stories for display in the database. The Connected Kids project is supported by the City of Troy, Rensselaer County, the National Science Foundation, the Rubin Community Fellows Program, and 3Com's Urban Challenge Program.

Contact Persons:  Teri Harrison,; Jim Zappen,, 518-276-8117

Latest Update:  February 15, 2003

Community Networking Project