Student hobby leads to 3-D fossil project
Jason Ward was just looking for some rocks.
The assistant professor in Pittsburg State University’s Graphics and Imaging Technology Department was trying to find an ideal object to scan with the department’s Next Engine 3-D scanner.
One of his students, Sean McCartney, asked Ward what objects scan the best.
“Rocks,” Ward replied.
“How about fossils,” McCartney asked.
“Close enough,” Ward said. “Bring them in.”
Neither knew it at the time, but that brief conversation led to the start of a project that could end up changing the way science studies dinosaurs and other ancient species.
“I brought in some fossils, and it just kind of took off from there,” McCartney, an engineering technology major, said. “It’s very rare, especially in the field of paleontology, that new ideas and technology pop up. It’s exciting stuff.”
McCartney, an amateur paleontologist, and Ward are in the process of making 3-D scans of fossils the former has collected over the past 30 years. The scans will be used to create digital archives of the fossils, which will enhance the study of the ancient bones.
“It’s really amazing,” McCartney said. “We can take this new technology from the construction industry, merge it with technology for graphics, and create a virtual database of the fossils. We can also incorporate research material with each digital fossil. With hyperlinks, we could tie every piece of research ever written about a particular bone to that digital file.”
Once in digital format, the bones can be repaired and restored to their original form. And, through the use of 3-D printing, exact replicas of dinosaur bones can be created.
“A lot bones that we find have deformation and damage,” McCartney said. “Once we scan them in, we can use software to correct all the imperfections and give you a perfect bone. The 3-D printers can then produce them, and what you could end up seeing is a dinosaur skeleton just as it would be have been millions of years ago.
“We’ll no longer have to rely on artists to give us a best guess of what dinosaurs looked like and behaved,” he said. “We’ll have it. We’ll be able to assign muscles to connection points. We can better study how they moved. We can test and determine how much force was in a set of jaws or how much strength was in a set of T-Rex arms. It’s amazing what we can study with this technology.”
Ward said the 3-D technology is making the impossible possible.
“Once you have a 3-D scan of the object, you can always replicate it,” he said. “If you have something that is one of a kind, such as a dinosaur fossil, you can replicate it out of anything. That’s something that has basically been impossible, because a lot of these things are immeasurable. They are out of the right-angle world.”
Ward said the process can be described as “reverse engineering.”
“If something is broke, we can use this technology to put it back together as it was,” he said. “You’re seeing this in dental work, with prosthetics and now in archaeology. It’s so interdisciplinary you can almost apply it to every department at the university.”
McCartney said PSU is one of the few institutions to currently use 3-D scanning for this purpose. For that reason, he said some other universities and museums are working with PSU to create digital scans of some of their fossils and artifacts.
“We’re getting a lot of attention from other places that want us to help them create digital archives of their objects,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see just how far this little project can go.”
Wilson named Educator of the Year
A Pittsburg State University faculty member will be honored this month with an award in honor of the man who inspired him to go into education.
Barry Wilson, chairman of the PSU Graphics and Imaging Technologies Department, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Jerry Watson Educator of the Year Award by the Printing and Imaging Association of MidAmerica. He will be recognized on May 9 at the PIA MidAmerica Graphex Awards Gala in Kansas City.
The award is named for Jerry Watson, an award-winning graphics professor at College of the Ozarks, where Wilson received his undergraduate degree. In 1999, during Wilson’s senior year, Watson and five others died in a plane crash in southwest Missouri.
Following his death, two awards were named in Watson’s honor: an award for graphics students and one for educators. Wilson, a former recipient of the student award, is the first person to receive both honors.
“Jerry Watson was an important mentor for me,” Wilson said, “and I never got a chance to say ‘thank you.’ So, when I learned that I was receiving his award, I was dumbfounded.”
Wilson, who received his master’s degree from and taught at the University of Central Missouri before coming to PSU, credits Watson with inspiring him to go into education.
“He was the reason I went into teaching,” Wilson said. “I knew that if I could influence just one student in the way he influenced me, my entire career would be worth it.”
Joe Polanco, PIA MidAmerica president, praised Wilson for his devotion to education.
“We are really pleased that Barry is this year’s recipient,” Polanco said. “I’ve been fortunate to know Barry for the past five years and have been pleased with his commitment to students and our industry. He is thought of highly by his peers and well deserving of this recognition.”
Huitt Receives COT Teaching Excellence Award
The Excellence in Teaching Award at the Pittsburg State University College of Technology is an individual accolade, but this year’s winner believes many people deserve to share the honor.
“My experiences over the last four years, working with many other colleagues in numerous departments within the College of Technology, strengthens my belief that we all deserve and share in this honor,” said Chris Huitt, assistant professor in the Graphics and Imaging Technologies Department.
Huitt, who specializes in print media, received the award on April 12 during the College of Technology’s annual banquet.
Huitt has been at PSU since 2007. He taught as an adjunct for two years before becoming a full-time GIT faculty member.
The Excellence in Teaching Award recipients are selected by the COT faculty.
“I was very honored to receive the 2013 College of Technology Excellence in Teaching Award,” he said. “This fortunate opportunity was made possible by other faculty that took the time to encourage, instruct, mentor, and extend a helping hand to me, throughout my educational experience and teaching career here at Pittsburg State University.”
2013 ADDY Awards
There were many Pittsburg State University students present Saturday at the American Advertising Federation - Joplin ADDY Awards.
They could have used a few more to help them carry out all of their gold and silver hardware. Pitt State students won 10 Gold ADDY’s, 20 Silver and 1 Best of Show award.
“Since becoming a faculty member, it is even more rewarding for me to watch my students accept these awards than to receive awards of my own,” said Christel Benson, an assistant professor in the Department of Graphics and Imaging Technologies. “For them to grasp the importance of their hard work and dedication in the classroom and stand confidently among professionals in this industry is the greatest satisfaction of all. The opportunity to compete in the ADDY awards allows them to see excellent examples of professional work and where they stand with their abilities.”
For the students, participating in the ADDY’s was an educational and motivational experience.
“This was the first year I participated in the ADDYs, and I have to say that it was an amazing experience,” junior Kelsey Kinnamon said. “The best part of the whole night was the pride I felt watching so many of my classmates walk up to receive their awards. It was so fulfilling to see all of those long hours of work pay off.”
Senior Zach Waggoner said winning ADDY awards gives him more confidence as head prepares to enter the workforce.
“Having the access to such flourishing opportunities at Pitt State, such as the ADDY’s, brought confidence in the projects I produced,” Waggoner said. “By my senior year, I not only had made a few networking opportunities, I knew I had produced projects worth showing to prospective employers. Now with the responsibility of visual design and marketing for the companies I work for, winning an award shows I have continued my learning and applying my skills in the right direction. “
2012 ADDY Awards
Pittsburg State University students brought home seven gold awards, nine silver awards and two special awards from the 2012 Addy Awards. Click here to read the full story.
2011 ADDY Awards
Congratulations to GIT students and instructors who won 11 Gold, 18 Silver, Student Best of Show and 2 Special Judges Awards at the ADDY Carnavale sponsored by Joplin AAF.