MACON – Mercer University Professor of Biomedical Engineering Dr. Sinjae Hyun and 15 of his students created innovative 3-D printed yearbooks for seven seniors who are graduating later this month from the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon.
Dr. Hyun designed the Touch3D (pronounced “Touched”) Yearbook using 3-D modeling and printing technology to be the first touchable yearbook of its kind in the world. One of his research interests involves applying this technology to fields such as medicine, aerospace and arts.
“I was brainstorming possible applications for 3-D printing technology to help others and conceptualized the idea of making tangible objects for the visually impaired,” said Dr. Hyun. “We say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but for the visually impaired, photos may not be the most optimal way of storing memories.”
He presented his concept of a 3-D printed yearbook to Dr. Cindy Gibson, superintendent of the Georgia Academy for the Blind, and she agreed to pursue the project for the Academy’s Class of 2018.
Dr. Hyun and his students scanned the torsos of the Academy’s seniors using a 3-D scanner, which created a digital 3-D image of each student. Then, 3-D modeling software was used to modify the digital images for printing, and a layer-by-layer data file of each model was created to print. A 3-D printer in the Biomechanics Lab at the School of Engineering was used to create the final models of the students’ busts for the Touch3D Yearbook.
The busts, along with each student’s name in Braille, were mounted on plaques and presented to the seniors during a ceremony at the Academy on May 9.
All told, around three months of work went into creating the yearbooks.
“Accessibility is perhaps the most pivotal word in the world of students with disabilities. The Georgia Academy for the Blind is proud to be included in the innovative work of the Mercer University School of Engineering to even the accessibility playing field for students with visual impairment,” said Dr. Gibson. “We thank Dr. Hyun and his students for initiating what we plan to be a lasting collaboration to further our mission to provide quality services for students with visual impairment to achieve their highest potential.”
The Mercer students involved in the project are all participating in Dr. Hyun’s annual Mercer On Mission trip to South Korea, which is taking place for the fourth consecutive summer beginning May 21.
The trip involves work with the Drim School, located 60 miles south of Seoul, which was the first school founded in South Korea to work specifically with North Korean refugees and their children.
Dr. Hyun and his students provide lessons in English, basic robotics and computer skills and Western culture at the school, which offers elementary to high school curricula.
In preparation for this summer’s trip to South Korea, Dr. Hyun presented the concept of the Touch3D Yearbook to his students, who were enthusiastic to get involved – first to produce it locally, but also to implement it into their work in Korea.
“They were passionate about getting involved in this project and invested a significant amount of time in the project from beginning to end,” said Dr. Hyun. “Without their enthusiasm, we could not have completed this project successfully.”
In addition to making the Touch3D Yearbook an annual project for the Academy for the Blind, they plan to explore the possibility of creating a yearbook for students at a center for the blind in Cheon An, South Korea.
“We hope that these partnerships will create meaningful and lasting impacts for the Macon and Korean communities, as well as for the Mercer students who are involved,” said Dr. Hyun. “This project has been a great reminder that not only can technology improve our daily lives, it can also have a significant emotional impact in creating lasting memories.”
About Mercer University School of Engineering
Mercer University’s School of Engineering, founded in 1985, offers innovative and academically challenging programs that provide students with a comprehensive education, featuring a solid foundation in mathematics and sciences, a core engineering curriculum, a range of courses in engineering specialties and a strong emphasis on communication technologies. The School is consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top three master’s-degree-level engineering schools in the Southeast. Known for its breadth of instruction in its undergraduate program and its five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program, the School combines technical education with hands-on laboratory experience. Mercer engineers can look forward to joining fellow alumni in companies such as Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, Lockheed Martin, Georgia Power, Siemens and Gulfstream Aerospace.