It’s the ultimate combination of old and new.
Decked out in full body armor as a gladiator from the ancient Roman Empire, Senior Harry Rol clamps on his helmet and steps onto a 3-D printing scanner in the University of Mary Washington’s 21st century classroom known as the ThinkLab.
“You really look the part,” said Associate Professor of Classics Joe Romero, as Rol strikes a pose, knees bent with shield and sword at the ready.
Rol, a classics and computer science major, is one of 10 students in UMW’s inaugural course known simply as 3-D Pompeii. The class combines the study of ancient history with cutting edge 3-D printing technology. Students design their own historically accurate replicas and print three- dimensional miniature models.
As a final project, the class will create and print a 3-D version of the ancient city of Pompeii before it was buried in volcanic ash in 79 A.D.
The unique classroom brings together students from the varied disciplines of computer science, historic preservation and classics. Team-teachers Romero and George Meadows, professor of education, came up with idea for the course after brainstorming the possibilities that 3-D printing offers.
“This technology is becoming more a part of everyday life,” said Meadows, who also teaches a freshman seminar on 3-D printing, design and robotics. Students reap multiple benefits. “It gets them back to working with their hands and the basic skills that give them control.”
Before students could jump into the high-tech project, they had to master the past. They spent half the semester learning about ancient architecture and engineering, classical civilization and Roman history.
“The course is like nothing I’ve ever taught before.” said Romero. “It takes everyone out of their comfort zone.”
That’s just the case for Gabrielle Lindemann who is next at the 3-D scanner. Dressed as Nike, the goddess of victory, the senior historic preservation major had no experience with digital design before taking this class. Today, she will complete a model of an ancient Roman statue based on the costume of her own creation.
“I did not expect any of this, but I love it,” said Lindemann as she adjusts her toga, which has been properly tied based on her meticulous research.
To make the most accurate model possible, Lindemann incorporated everything from a homemade wooden sword that she constructed with her father to fairy wings taken from a childhood Halloween costume.
“Instead of seeing a picture of a catapult or statue on a page in a book, you’re actually building it the same way the Romans did,” said Lindemann. “It’s fascinating.”