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Calgary student builds website with 3D view of global COVID-19 cases, spread

A 3D, interactive website created by a Calgary high school student shows how the novel coronavirus has spread across the world.
A 3D, interactive website created by a Calgary high school student shows how the novel coronavirus has spread across the world. seethespread.com

A Calgary high school student is putting his ample extra time to good use, hoping to remind people across the world why it’s important to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matthew Toms-Zuberec, a Grade 11 student at Calgary’s Notre Dame High School, said he started to build his website, See the Spread, out of boredom, but he’s hoping it can be embraced as an educational tool as well.

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The site took three weeks to build, and features a 3D globe that shows the total number of cases in every country.

“It takes the data from the previous day for each country in the world, and then it puts it on my 3D globe,” Toms-Zuberec said.

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“It’ll change the colour based on how many cases there are per country.”

In addition to the global tally, Toms-Zuberec’s site has a unique feature that actually represents how the virus has spread, through a video users can play that takes them back to the very first coronavirus case that was confirmed.

“Back… very late December, early January. And it’ll show you the progression, like globally,” he said.

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The student said he felt people weren’t taking the realities of the pandemic as seriously as they had been in the beginning. He hopes this view of how it’s spreading will serve as a reminder for people to stay home.

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Toms-Zuberec, who said he’s been honing his web development skills since the age of 14, said as of Monday the site has about 45,000 users, and that number is steadily growing by about 1,000 each day.

“It’s mostly Canada so far because that’s where I’ve been marketing, really, or just like showing off my website,” he said, adding that much of that is happening on social media or through word of mouth.

COVID-19 Pandemic: Ask the Expert
COVID-19 Pandemic: Ask the Expert

“I did start… kind of showcasing it on Twitter as well as like sites like Reddit and Instagram and it started to spread and more and more people globally have come to see it.

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“I believe the second highest country is the U.S., then Great Britain and India.”

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At any given point, Toms-Zuberec said there can be anywhere from 25 to 700 users on the site at once.

While the statistics update themselves each day, Toms-Zuberec said he’s working on some additions to make the site even more user friendly and informative.

“An upcoming feature that I’m going to add is a legend so you can like see what the different colors mean for each country, like, if it’s like the darker the color, the more cases,” he said. “Just to make it more clear.”

He said he’s incorporated a number of features, some of which come in as a request from users, including a dashboard where people can find real-time data for case numbers in each country, including deaths, recovered and active cases.

A 3D, interactive website created by a Calgary high school student shows how the novel coronavirus has spread across the world.
A 3D, interactive website created by a Calgary high school student shows how the novel coronavirus has spread across the world. seethespread.com

Toms-Zuberec said right now, he’s not making any money from the site, but instead has a page where people can make donations. He said in the future, he may consider incorporating ads, but he’s wary of getting in the way of users finding what they need on the site.

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