St. Cloud State University students can now get up close and personal with skulls from 20 different creatures without handling the often delicate originals.
Biology department has teamed up with the Visualization Lab on an Interactive Skull Museum. The project has already spawned 3-D printed copies of small skulls from the biology department and a project is underway to create the interactive virtual museum that will allow students to study each angle of a skull and study similarities and differences between the skulls of different animals, said Mark Gill, visualization engineer.
These skulls are delicate, rare, expensive or all three. Scanning them allows students access to study and handle the skulls in ways they’ve never been able to before, Gill said.
Once the project is completed, Julius plans to use the Interactive Skull Lab to distribute it as a DVD or open-source software for download to high schools or other universities that don’t have the same level of collection as St. Cloud State. The interactive lab could then be paired with an updated version of a paper “Phylogenetic Reconstruction as a Broadly Applicable Teaching Tool in the Biology Classroom” Julius and Professor Heiko Schoenfuss previously printed that encourages biology teachers to work with their students to compare features in different animal skulls to look for similarities.
Access to the Interactive Skull Museum would give these classrooms virtual access to all the skulls needed to complete the lessons.
In addition to creating a virtual museum with the scans. Gill is also printing some of the skulls, includes the skull of a small lizard. The skull was about the size of a quarter, but using the technology, Gill was able to enlarge the skull to the size of a deck of cards, which allows students to easier make out details of the skull’s anatomy.
To capture the skulls, Gill and students working in the Visualization Lab used an Artec Spider scanner and Studio 10, a 3-D visualization software.
The next step is to work with students from the biology and the sociology and anthropology departments to make scans of all the university’s skulls to complete the Interactive Skull Museum and make it available for use by students and others.
The biology department is also teaming with the Visualization Lab to make enlarged 3D prints of microscopic organisms and natural structures or small prints of very large objects that could be used for museum displays.
Julius has also worked with the Visualization Lab together with Department of Art Professor Bill Gorcica to design a virtual component to SimRiver, a web-based platform for education about the aquatic environment headed by the Mayama lab at Tokyo Gakugei University. Julius is a project member on the SimRiver program.