Saturday, July 11, 2015

Our 3D Data From the Advanced Light Source - an Update and VR!

Data Visualization Animation of Student Scanned Sample - a Claw!
The Advanced Light Source is a synchrotron, a facility that speeds up and then bends an electron beam to produce high energy x-rays. The x-rays are used by scientists to image different samples. The 8th and 7th graders at our school have gone to the ALS for the past two years and participated in different projects, including x-ray tomography and crystallography.

Data Visualization - a Feather

Based on these experiences, I wanted to delve more deeply into 3D data visualization.  In particular, I have sought to learn how to use Avizo, which allows much more advanced image processing than FIJI (the open source alternative).  One big obstacle was cost: an Avizo license sells for $5000 -- with the education discount.  I emailed Avizo and requested -- and received -- a free trial.  When I looked online for video tutorials on how to use Avizo, I could only find one or two videos. During the trial, I made several tutorial videos of my own.  I then asked Avizo to extend my trial for as long as I continue producing high-quality tutorials. They agreed and it has been a great partnership. I have now made 15 videos, which are hosted on my YouTube channel.  Currently, my tutorials have over 3,500 views and 9,450 minutes watched. 

Our School Director Trying Google Cardboard
Working our booth at the 2015 San Mateo Maker Faire, I was able to explore other makers' work and became interested in Google Cardboard, a virtual reality viewer that uses cardboard, a few lenses, and a cell phone (and app) for viewing. I saw an opportunity to use the Cardboard to display the 3D models of our class data from the Advanced Light Source in a way that would foster a compelling learning experience. I asked the people at Google’s booth if I could have the extra Google Cardboards at the end of the Faire. They agreed. When I returned home with the Cardboards, I did some research and found an app called InsiteVR, which I have used to display the models. I started off sharing the project with my teachers and fellow students.

Meeting with Scientists at the ALS
Soon after, I contacted Dula Parkinson, a beamline scientist at ALS who has been a critical supporter of both our school's work and my independent projects.  We met and talked and he is now planning to put Google Cardboards in the lobby of the Advanced Light Source to showcase for the public the amazing imaging work that is done at the ALS!

I also played around with OpenDive, "free DIY 3D VR glasses by using your 3D printer, a non-commercial project by Stefan Welker" and was able to print out my own set on our school's Makerbot!

Dive printed and ready to be assembled - just add cell phone!

I plan to continue my data visualization work and since its announcement in May 2015, have been interested in learning more about working with Google's Jump

- Sam S (9th grader in the fall, BPC Maker Club intern)