Ruby Spencer and Brianna Torrez, both in the sixth grade, participated in the Girls of Promise Tech Contest, which culminated in a March trip to Little Rock to both meet with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the Capitol and then compete against other teams by presenting their projects to a panel of peers.
Their idea, based on having seen similar work done at a university, was to help the nearby Shiloh Museum of Ozark History with its historical education programs by taking museum artifacts, creating a full 360-degree scan of them, then 3D printing a replica. Unlike fragile museum artifacts, that replica can travel easily to presentations and even be handled by students without fear of irreplaceable loss.
“Artifacts are fragile, but people can grab the 3D replicas and touch them,” said Brianna.
“We have Native American tools, shears, fossils,” she continued.
“They don’t know what some of them are yet, it’s just a weird fossil,” added Ruby.
It wasn't always easy work capturing all the details and getting a complete scan of every angle of each artifact, but getting a behind-the-scenes look at museum operations was part of the fun of the project, both girls said.
“They’re going to give us some artifacts to scan that they haven’t shown to the public yet. Also, they’re having a new exhibit and we might be able to see artifacts there,” said Ruby.
The project placed third in the Tech Contest, winning iPads for the girls. The objective of Girls of Promise is to grow interest in science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM) fields among female students. It’s a goal both Ruby and Brianna support wholeheartedly.
“I would just say to other girls, you don’t know if you’ll like something until you try it. You might think it won’t be interesting, but you never know,” said Ruby.
“Some girls probably think [STEM classes] are more of a guy thing, so they won’t want to get into them, but any girl can do anything that a guy can do,” added Brianna.
Both girls credited EAST with playing a big part in being able to develop their project, which used iPad scanners and software like PhotoScan, Skanect and Autodesk, among others.
“EAST has been so helpful,” said Ruby. “With EAST, you have more technology than other classes, and EAST describes the technology better to us, so we understand it better.”
“If we were working on this project by ourselves, figuring it out and making it bigger and then coming to Little Rock to present would have been pretty hard if it was just us two without the support of EAST,” said Brianna.
The team now plans on making a website walking through the steps of their project, describing all the tools they used and how others can use them and replicate what they’ve done. Meanwhile, they’re also entertaining the idea of presenting their idea to other museums with an offer to scan and print their artifacts.