Stanford Pilot Project Results in Over 100 Anthropological 3D Scans

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3D technology is so often about designing and creating, allowing for a continual outpouring of innovation around the world. With the availability of 3D scanning and 3D printing, however, sharing is also an enormous benefit.

The results of such sharing have been evident as museums have offered 3D files to the public, progressive interactive and virtual exhibits, and stunning 3D catalogs for history buffs and art lovers to enjoy. Scientists at a variety of different universities, museums, and labs now also have the ability to share files of ancient pieces of art or anthropological pieces that are extremely old and fragile. 3D files can be transferred, and 3D prints can be made onsite for further study.

The Stanford University Libraries System is now getting in on this valuable process for sharing information too in a pilot project, focused on scanning 3D models for the anthropological department; in fact, nearly 100 animal bones and fragments have now been scanned for Krish Seetah, the Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Stanford who has been teaching zooarchaeology for over 12 years. Seetah was able to use the 3D models in teaching Zooarchaeology: An Introduction to Faunal Remains last year.

Seetah, always looking toward expanding his students’ educational experience, has had an interest in 3D scanning for about four years.

The venture into 3D scanning started around 2014, when Seetah received a Hoagland Award grant from Stanford’s Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. He has been collaborating with the Stanford Libraries’ academic technology specialist for anthropology, Claudia Engel. This is not their first project together, as they also previously made strides for progress in the classroom as they brought both tablets and digital notebooks forth for Seetah’s teaching efforts.

“The ideal situation would be for each one of my students to take an entire skeleton home and study it, but that’s just not realistic because of the fragility and limitations of the collection,” Seetah said. “Before, I used photographs, and two dimensions versus three is a completely different situation.”

With the 3D images, students are able to study their physical coursework in greater detail—something that is required for their classwork as they must memorize all the bones and even be able to identify them just from a fragment.

An object is being scanned for the Stanford University Libraries System pilot project.

“The models give you all of the angles,” says graduate student Ryan Merritt, a student from last year who enjoyed the use of 3D models. “And for someone who was learning about these artifacts for the first time, that was really useful.”

Seetah would like to see the use of 3D scanning and 3D models in the classroom expand to other disciplines at Stanford, such as biology.

“This is not being done to coddle the students,” Seetah said. “It’s all about finding ways to make sure we are responsive to how students learn best in today’s digital environment.”

While Seetah is seeing the benefits for his students, he also understands the incredible value for researchers who can work together in trading files back and forth—especially for those in more isolated areas.

Stuart Sydman is in charge of the ongoing 3D scanning work, and also serves as Associate Director for Digital Strategy at Stanford Libraries. He would also like to see digitized materials being made accessible to other academics and students, through the Stanford Digital Repository.

“The 3D model doesn’t replace the original, but it gives you a digital surrogate to make analysis, evaluation, instruction on those objects easier both in the classroom and at home,” he says. “Digitization is one way we cannot just preserve our heritage and our history but also make these really important objects or works of art available to our students and faculty and researchers in the world at large.”

Let us know your thoughts on this latest 3D printing news! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source / Video; Still shots from video: Stanford News]

 

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