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To understand 3D printing beyond the novel “technology is crazy” perception

by Lillie Hinkle, Virtual Curation Laboratory intern

My name is Lillie Hinkle.  I am a graduating senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Anthropology and Philosophy of Ethics and Public Policy.  I took on this internship to understand 3D printing beyond the novel “technology is crazy” perception I had of it.  Reading all of the groundbreaking advances made in medicine, technology, and even culinary worlds using 3D printing drew me to the internship in the first place.  I have never been the most technologically savvy person, so the prospect was intimidating to me considering all the incredible things this technology is credited for.  It was important for me to overcome this skittishness of things I did not understand, and challenge myself to leave my comfort zone.  I know that this is a skill that will appreciate in value as more and more industries make use of these machines, and I am so proud that I have developed a working proficiency.  The Virtual Curation Lab boasts a combination that is hard to turn down:

  1. relevance to anthropology +
  2. a supervisor who knows more about 3D printing than you may ever want to know +
  3. freedom to explore independent interests

That last component is what I hoped to utilize during this experience.  I became inspired by the work the lab had done with previous clients, and thought about how underrepresented groups might benefit from 3D printing.  So I selected an underrepresented minority subculture I grew up around – the Gullah culture – to try and recreate aspects of their physical past.

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I traveled to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina to gather some data about the Gullah culture.  I had access to a former slave plantation, Boone Hall Plantation, which seeks to preserve Gullah slave culture and houses some of the oldest original slave cabins in the country.  Using a hand scanner and photogrammetric software, I was able to generate models that are representative of Gullah slave life: sweetgrass baskets, sherds, and structures from the plantation grounds.  We printed the models for the poster I created (shown above) Virginia Commonwealth University Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Spring Poster Symposium.  The blue areas on the poster highlighted 3D printed and 3D painted objects. I was excited to have a body of work to show for all that I have learned.  I am grateful my undergrad internship experience has been so much more than the stereotypical coffee mule for my superiors.  Dr. Means has taught me everything I needed to know to, guiding me towards self-sufficiency and confidence in a 3D printing lab.