Mid-Pacific Today Spring/Summer 2019

Museum Studies students 3D scan invertebrates for Bishop Museum exhibit

Posted on May 3, 2019 by Scot Allen

By Julie Funasaki Yuen

Mid-Pacific high school students in Chris Falk's Museum Studies class are learning how to use the latest in 3D scanning technology while at the same time applying their new skills to a real-world challenge. After learning of the Bishop Museum's need for preserving, cataloging and displaying some of its collection, Falk and his students worked together with researchers to 3D scan the museum's collection of invertebrate specimens, currently not on display.

The students then digitally stitched together the scans in class, 3D-printed, and painted scale-model and life-sized print-outs of the organisms. The digital scans will be shared for research purposes and the 3D print-outs will be featured as part of an underwater twilight zone exhibit at the Bishop Museum Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center.

"We were extremely fortunate to work with Mid-Pacific's Museum Studies class, and Chris Falk, on this project," said Bishop Museum Invertebrate Zoology Collection Manager Holly Bolick. "He and the students were able to create detailed 3D images of real specimens from the Bishop Museum's Invertebrate Zoology Collection and from those, fabricate life-like animal models that can be placed and displayed in an aquatic environment."

"It was no small feat," she continues. "During the process, the students were thoughtful, careful while handling the specimens, and showed a lot of ingenuity when technical challenges arose. I was very impressed. I am looking forward to seeing the models in the Twilight Reef Zone exhibit."

"In the Science Adventure Center, interactive displays need to create a sense of wonder and discovery, while being based on actual objects and real research," says Bishop Museum Exhibit Designer Michael Wilson. "This project does that by scanning and printing scientifically accurate replicas and installing them in the deep water tank to bring Bishop Museum Researcher and Ichthyologist Dr. Richard Pyle's Twilight Reef Zone to life."

When asked why it is important to teach Museum Studies in a way that involves community partners, Museum Studies teacher Chris Falk says "Anytime you have an opportunity to apply knowledge, apply a skill, and actually produce something, it has more relevance. It makes learning real. The students are able to say, 'I did that' but more importantly, learning this way allows students to realize that the process is difficult. That things change and they need to adapt."

Museum Studies student Ethan Kitamura '20 agrees. "If you don't get a good (3D) scan, the computer will try to fill in the blanks but it doesn't have any data to work from so it just fills in the hole and doesn't add any detail. That's why getting a good scan is really important. To fix it, I'd continue scanning to fill in the gaps and make sure the scan is complete."

Kitamura appreciates the opportunity to apply what he's learned in his community. "I think it's crazy that I'm so young and I can make an impact, especially at a place as important as the Bishop Museum."

In addition to their 3D invertebrate specimen scanning work, the Museum Studies students also spent time researching and designing their own interactive, educational museum exhibit. They learned about the most important criteria for creating an effective interactive museum experience from Exhibit Designer Michael Wilson.

As part of the students' research, they observed visitors at the Bishop Museum Science Adventure Center while they interacted with current exhibits, and spoke with Mid-Pacific first and second-grade students about what games and activities they were most interested in, before developing their own museum exhibit concepts. Upon completion, they will present and share their ideas with the Bishop Museum.

"This (class) gives students the opportunity to produce something real," says Falk. "They could have written a report on invertebrate sponges but I think the win here is to create something that is real and relevant."