3D Educational Resources

From UBC Wiki


This project aims to create an online repository of three-dimensional resources for our academic collaborators and to develop UBC expertise in technological and pedagogical approaches to 3D objects and learning. The first phase of this project is to capture specimens, creating 3D models for instructors to use in class and students to use as reference materials outside of class. Students from a wide range of disciplines will be provided with learning tools to facilitate kinesthetic, spatial, and structural understanding of objects and systems. By generating a library of 3D objects, we will be able to generate interactive virtual models, 3D printed materials, and other valuable resources for learning in online and classroom settings. The second phase may include creating virtual reality versions of these materials.

This page is a living document for best practices and project procedures over the course of a two-year TLEF.

[Jump to Academic Collaborator checklist and information]

[Jump to Technical Training information]

[Jump to team members list]

Teaching and Learning with 3D Resources

Studies in many different disciplines require students to develop skills that relate to the three-dimensional (3D) nature of objects and systems, how they interact and function in the physical world (Ford and Minshall 2019[1]). Using drawings and diagrams to aid these learning objectives is insufficient for most students (Mathewson 1999[2]), as they are required to extrapolate into a third dimension. 3D and virtual resources allow for a more nuanced and complex understanding, motivation and perceptions of reward, as well as more effective collaborative learning than 2D representations (Dalgarno and Lee 2010[3]), opening up the potential for advanced teaching approaches in experiential learning.

Even where 3D resources are available, the selection is often limited, expensive, or unethical (McMenamin et al 2014[4]) and hands-on learning opportunities through labs are essentially impossible. In order for students to gain authentic experience with objects, we must make better 3D resources more widely available, whether virtually or through digital copies.

Examples of successful 3D projects can be found in a variety of units at UBC:

  • Claudia Krebs (Faculty of Medicine) has had significant success with 3D imaging in virtual reality, 3D printing, and 3D models (Dixit et al 2019[5]) (https://hive.med.ubc.ca/)
  • Kevin Fisher (Faculty of Arts) has used photogrammetry and virtual reality of archaeological sites in the KAMBE project (https://kambe.cnrs.ubc.ca/)
  • Descriptions of other projects by Emerging Media Labs (EML) at UBC (http://eml.ubc.ca/projects/)


The process of photogrammetry is widely used in landscape analysis, but can also be used on a much smaller scale. The process is essentially the same, where multiple photographs that are taken at different angles are combined together by a computer to form a three dimensional image of an object or landscape.

To do photogrammetry of smaller objects, we will potentially use two different processes, depending on the size of the object. For smaller objects (e.g. skulls, bones), the object is placed on a turntable adjacent to a camera or an array of cameras. As the object is rotated slowly, the cameras take hundreds of photos, each with a known positioning. For larger objects, the specimen stays 'fixed' to the surface (e.g. table or work bench) and the camera array moves (e.g. via a cart on wheels or a photographer).

A key component of the capture process is to ensure the amount of detail is adequate for the implementation of the resource. For example, soil monoliths are intended to show students the differences in texture, ranging from grains of sand to larger components. There is a trade-off between capturing very finely-grained images and creating a large, unwieldy 3D virtual object.

Object Acquisition

In order for us to create a virtual copy of your objects, we'll have to transfer them from their current location in storage to a place where our crew can work. It's critical that items are labeled and stored properly so that they don't get lost or broken in the transfer. Loose teeth or moving parts will have to be secured for transfer both to and from the work space.

Before you choose items to send to the team, consider carefully if you need each item. You may find it faster and less difficult to use resources that are already available online. Many of these objects are free, but of low quality, others may have a fee associated with downloading or use. It is worthwhile to explore this option prior to sending us materials for processing. Examples of commonly-used websites for viewing and teaching with virtual 3D resources can be found at:

Note that some of these companies may have copyrighting on the use of models - e.g. viewing only, single user, etc. Where possible, collaborators are encouraged to seek out ready-made sources online, since these are likely to require less investment and resources to deploy in the virtual classrooms.

The copyrighting of models may also extend to the objects you wish to scan. It is the collaborator's responsibility to ensure that they have the rights and permissions to scan the items provided to the team.

Once you have developed your list of items for processing, make sure to fill in the [Object Acquisition Requirement] form - there will be additional details that you need to provide to the team.

Acquisition Team Documentation

Image Processing and Optimization

Before your virtual object will be ready for use, the captured images have to be connected to one another and 'cleaned up' for any background elements that were also captured. For example, shadows from a turntable or tags need to be removed from all the images in which they occur.

A particularly difficult aspect of this process comes when matching two different sets of images from the 'top' and 'bottom' of an object. Done correctly, this step enables the virtual object to be viewed from all angles, much like the real life object would be.

Optimization Team Documentation

Using 3D resources in UBC courses

There are different ways to employ 3D resources in your courses at UBC:

  • Embed 3D image links into Canvas for students to view (simple interaction, lower learning objectives)
  • Demonstrate 3D images in your lecture or lab (simple interaction, possibly more advanced learning objectives)
  • Have students download, view, and modify (e.g. tag) 3D models (more complex interaction, advanced learning objectives)
  • Use 3D virtual objects to populate a virtual reality experience (e.g. a virtual museum or lab to look at specimens) (advanced interactions, advanced learning objectives)

Academic Collaborators

Object Acquisition Requirements

A copy of an Object Acquisition Requirement form will be provided and it must be completed before the 3D acquisition process begins. This document includes an expected project workflow.

Object Drop-Off/Pick-Up Protocol

  • The point of contact responsible for transporting objects for scanning to/from UBC Studios must notify the GAA (who is responsible for these items) of the drop-off/pick-up time.
  • The academic collaborator must let the GAA know how long the items may be stored at UBC Studios and if there are any special security or handling requirements.
  • During the summer of 2020, there is limited access to the University Services Building and to UBC Studios. The point of contact will be let in at a building entrance to drop-off materials.
  • The point of contact is also responsible for picking up the items and we will indicate in our records (Object Check In and Out document) that the object is no longer UBC Studios' responsibility.

Object Intake and Measurment

The object must be measured to provide the optimization team with a size reference. The dimensions of some models are significant in teaching and learning about it. Whether the object captured in the capturing team's space or at another location, the GAA is responsible for four tasks upon receiving any and all items:

  1. To take 1-3 picture(s) of different sections of the item with a digital caliper (measure a wide portion of the object to reduce the margin of measurement error);
  2. To upload the picture in Teamshare > Internal > measurements > [assigned project folder] so that the optimization team may refer to it during the design phase;
  3. To name the photos according to the assigned code;
  4. To inquire about the handling, security, and/or any other relevant information while the object(s) are in the possession of the acquisition team.

Remote Viewing of 3D Models

Academic collaborators will be able to view their 3D models via a web-based model viewing platform. Platform access is protected with HTTP authentication; each client has their own username and password which grants access to their models.

All of the URLs will start with: http://ubc.778labs.com/model. When new models are uploaded to the server via SFTP, they will be instantly accessible in the model viewer by their directory/filename. For instance, after uploading 1.obj and 1.mtl to tests/yerba/ via SFTP, the model can be viewed at: http://ubc.778labs.com/model/tests/yerba/1

Administrative Details

Check-in and Check-out Protocol

The GAA is currently responsible for the storage and organization of materials.

Labeling Object Codes

The objects that academic collaborators leave with us for scanning may already come with a code number. You can use that in your records and for naming files. However, if there is no code, you may attach a code to the object/its container (with a post-it note if tape is not permitted) or include a post-it note with a code next to the object in the photo capture.

When assigning a code number, use the format: collaboratorinitials_assignednumber. E.g. AB_01. Record the codes in the Object Check In and Out form located in Teamshare > Documents > Object Storage. This is for storage organizational purposes. The file name may exclude the collaborator initials.

Some objects may have special organizational circumstances. For example, Darlene Weston's first set of bones for capturing was given to the Project Team in a tub labelled 'Set D' with no specimen count and no codes. As the 3D Acquisition team begins to scan the bones, they will include a self-assigned code to each object. This code will follow the format: SetD_##. The codes can be disposed of afterwards.

Team Members

Project Team

  • Suzie Lavallee - Primary Investigator, Forestry, Provides overall academic direction and engagement with other academic collaborators across UBC.
  • Saeed Dyanatkar - Executive Producer, Oversees project overall objectives, scope and budget, manages the team from an HR perspective.
  • Michael Sider - Producer, Advises on and oversees the project management and technical aspects of the project.
  • Sharon Hu - Project Coordinator, Coordinates the project's resources and tasks, facilitates workflow and lends expertise on incorporating emerging technology within the online classroom.
  • Michal (Mike) Suchanek - 3D Acquisition Specialist, Oversees all technical aspects of the project (hardware and software) as well as the workflow of 3D acquisition (photogrammetry, 3D scan, etc.
  • W Chung - 3D Designer, 3D design and optimization
  • Yousra Alfarra - Work Learn Student, Assists in 3D acquisition process.

Past team members

  • Sam Peng - GAA (Graduate Academic Assistant) 2020, Facilitates communications between the technical team and faculty collaborators, responsible for organization of specimens and for compiling documentation.
  • Jazica Chan - Work Learn Student 2020, Assists in design and optimization process.
  • Emma Ng - Work Learn Student 2020, Assists in 3D acquisition + design and optimization process.

UBC Studios Support

  • Andrew Wang - UBC Studios Operations, Provide operational support for the project.

Academic Collaborators

  • Maja Krzic - Associate Professor in Forest and Conservation Science and soil scientist, UBC Forestry, A collaborator who needs approximately 10 soil samples called monoliths scanned.
  • Susan Rowley - Associate Professor and curator of MOA, UBC Anthropology, A collaborator who needs specimens located at the Lab of Anthropology scanned (list to be determined).
  • Darlene Weston - Associate Professor, UBC Anthropology, A collaborator who needs more than 200 human bones scanned.
  • Cole Burton - Assistant Professor, Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Terrestrial Mammal Conservation, UBC Forestry. A collaborator who needs approximately 10 skull specimens scanned.
  1. Ford, Simon (October 2019). "Invited review article: Where and how 3D printing is used in teaching and education". Additive Manufacturing. 25: 131–150 – via Elsevier Science Direct.
  2. Mathewson, James (January 1999). "Visual-spatial thinking: An aspect of science overlooked by educators". Science Education. 83: 33–54 – via Wiley Online Library.
  3. Delgarno, Barney (January 2010). "What are the learning affordances of 3-D virtual environments?". British Journal of Educational Technology. 41: 10–32 – via Wiley Online Library.
  4. McMenamin, Paul (June 2014). "The production of anatomical teaching resources using three dimensional (3D) printing technology". Anatomical Sciences Education. 7: 479–486 – via American Association for Anatomy.
  5. Dixit, Ishan (March 2019). "Which tool is best: 3D scanning or photogrammetry - it depends on the task (book chapter)". Biomedical Visualization (book). (book chapter - n/a): 107–119 – via Springer Link.