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2006 Campus Technology Innovators: 3D

2006 Campus Technology Innovators

Innovator: Darton College



2006 CT Innovators: Darton

Finding ways to think outside of the box
while using off-the-shelf technology.

Challenge Met

Administrators at Darton College (GA), a two-year institution in the University System of Georgia, wanted to take study materials in their Cardiovascular Technology and Anatomy & Physiology programs out of the lab environment— and bring them to life for students. They found their inspiration in 3D stereoscopy (which creates the illusion of depth by presenting a slightly different image to each eye, viewed through polarized glasses).

“I’m always seeking ways of improving teaching and learning with technology,” says Darryn Ostrander, director of instructional technology and distance learning at the school. “No one else was really using 3D technology in the classroom, so we decided to be the first. It seemed natural to apply 3D to the study of anatomy and physiology.”

By integrating modern 3D rendering programs with stereoscopic techniques, the Darton 3D Project portrays virtual objects in three-dimensional space; some models are still images, others incorporate full-motion animation and integrated multimedia. Ostrander notes that the school can make as many copies of the digital models as necessary, which means that students are no longer limited to one set of traditional anatomical models in a study lab. “The models are easier and more interesting to study,” he says, “thus improving student success.”

How They Did It

Ostrander realized that a system of 3D model development and projection could be developed using off-the-shelf technology, and aimed to build a repository of 3D learning objects using as few proprietary sources as possible. His team started exploring and developing a dual projection system using polarized lenses, and simultaneously developed stereoscopic 3D models with Autodesk’s rendering software, 3D Studio Max.

The team worked with faculty to select a heart model for development as their first 3D learning object. Starting with a CAD drawing of the heart purchased from Zygote Media Group, the school’s technicians created an animated 3D stereoscopic image that literally projects from the video screen. They added audio of actual heart valve sounds, carefully synchronized with the opening and closing of the valves in the animation. Faculty and students in preliminary focus groups were amazed, says Ostrander.

Darton initially deployed the 3D projection system on a mobile cart, comprising a standard PC, dual-monitor video card, two projectors, polarizing lenses, non-depolarizing screen, and 3D glasses. “We are finding ways to think outside of the box while using off-the-shelf technology to discover previously unexplored potential,” says Ostrander.

This fall, the college will advance to full implementation, with a ceiling-mounted projection system in a classroom dedicated to 3D instruction.

Next Steps

Next up: completing 3D stereoscopic presentations of the rest of the human body. Says Ostrander, “We are envisioning a Fantastic- Voyage-type presentation through various human organs and blood vessels.” He also notes that the implications of 3D are endless for anyone who needs to better understand spatial relationships in three dimensions.

Beyond this, the college plans to unveil a 3D distance learning program; Ostrander’s team is exploring anaglyph technology (which utilizes the red and cyan glasses one often associates with 3D viewing) as an online delivery model.


At the outset, Ostrander and his team started small.“We selected a 3D project that was within our scope,” he says, “taking stereoscopic images of real-life objects and models— not exceedingly difficult.” As they gained experience, they moved on to more complex work with stereoscopic video, ultimately producing 3D images from virtualreality video objects. The key, says Ostrander: Take it one step at a time.

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