While most people will be on the ground looking up Aug. 21 at the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in nearly a century, Austin Arens spent his summer in the sky looking down.

Arens, a landscape architect major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, spent the summer using geographic-information systems processed through an AutoCAD program to draw maps of Beatrice and Homestead National Monument.

The transportation and logistics analysis Arens completed for the National Park Service will be key when thousands of eclipse watchers congregate for the astral event at the monument’s 160 acres.

His maps will detail the park, including designated areas for parking, camping, vendors and restrooms. They will also show Homestead’s connection to Beatrice via Nebraska 4, and where visitors can park in town to be shuttled to the monument.

The park service’s Midwest Regional Office contacted UNL’s College of Architecture about the service learning opportunity. Landscape architecture program director Kim Wilson put the office in touch with Arens, who said it was a learning experience hard to pass up.

“It was mutually beneficial,” he said. “The National Park Service is getting some university expertise, but in return, I get to work on a great project and get some material to put on my resume.”

Arens completed the project through an Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience funded through the Pepsi Quasi Endowment and Union Bank & Trust.

The junior from Kearney is also coordinating student volunteers from UNL to help at Homestead on Aug. 21 from his leadership position in the college’s chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

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