hat began as an idea to share poetry with the visually impaired has turned into a sort of poetry in motion as a group of students from EAST at Don Roberts Elementary School in Little Rock have undertaken a project to provide a 3D-printed senior yearbook at the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB).
“Our project was going to be doing 3D-printed Braille poems for people that are blind,” said Ruby Davis, who began the project with partner Anish Patwardhan. “But then we went onto Google and found a blind school in Korea that made a 3D yearbook, and we thought, we have to do that. So that’s how we came up with this idea.” By having access to 3D-printed models, visually impaired students can feel and study the facial features of their classmates — “seeing” them through touch — and get to know them better even when they’re not around. “We thought it was the perfect idea because we have 3D printers in our EAST class, and we have the Arkansas School for the Blind here in Little Rock,” said Ruby. With guidance from facilitator Carman McBride, Ruby and Anish reached out to staff at ASB, who came to Roberts to visit and hear a presentation on the project and were immediately on board — and for more than the yearbook. “They were so excited, they want us to come out to see their 3D printers to see if we can use them or they can use ours, and they want us to teach them how to use the 3D printers,” said Anish. The students are working on how best to do that, likely leading a workshop. The difficulty, they said, was in figur8
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ing out how to turn ASB seniors into 3D-printed statues. They began the process by figuring out how to scan and print themselves. “We started off doing photogrammetry, but we ran into some problems,” said Sadie Schimmel, who, along with Kevin Durden, Emma Null and Reagan Farris, joined the yearbook project team. “Photogrammetry is taking pictures all the way around the head, but that really was not very friendly to us. It never worked, and in the best print we got, the back of Ruby’s head was cut off!” said Kevin. But with those struggles came more help. “I thought it was a really cool project, and I heard that they needed more help,” said Reagan on joining the team.
“I’m one of the printer people. I do 3D printing, and it’s really fun,” added Emma on how she got involved. The group tried a variety of different capture options — 123D Catch, Trnio, AG/ Grisoft — before finding a solution while seeking technical guidance from EAST Initiative staff. They settled on using a scanner and software package called Sense combined with Cura for slicing. “With photogrammetry we had to use three different softwares, but with Sense you can solidify [or make an object solid for printing] and shape it up the way you want using only one software,” said Sadie. Sense took a lot of the frustration out of the process, making it both easier and more fun. “Scanning is one of my favorite parts,”