Call it history in the making. Houston Community College Southwest (HCC Southwest) has created a 3D copy of Abraham Lincoln’s Life Mask, which will be donated to a local high school in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
HCC Southwest’s College Educational Technology Service s (CETS) recently registered with Smithsonian X 3D to re-create dozens of projects with its state-of-the-art 3D printer. According to Doug Rowlett, Interim Associate Dean of Workforce and Director of CETS, faculty and students can benefit from the college’s technology and the Smithsonian’s designs.
The art department can hold up a replica of a Ming vase, the science department can display a variety of fossil models or the history department can show a copy of the Wright Brother’s airplane.
“With the Lincoln life mask, students can actually touch the fissures in his face to see how the demands of the job changed him,” says Rowlett, adding that the possibilities are almost limitless. “About the only thing we can’t do is recreate a Mastodon,” he laughs.
While Rowlett’s goal is to provide classroom materials for HCC Southwest’s instructors, he eventually wants to reach out to school districts.
“A high school teacher could ask us for a vertebra for his or her science class,” he says.
Roland Fields, HCC Southwest’s Supervisor of Technicians and “all-around Boy Genius,” says Rowlett, has worked extensively on the 3D printing process, along with student lab aide Fred Lemme.
“Now that we’re registered with the Smithsonian, we can make some cool models,” says Fields, reminding that they still must get copyright permission.
Rowlett and Fields are looking to the future of HCC Southwest’s CETS, saying the college is ramping up its 3D printing capabilities to provide more and better services. Even the 3D printer’s manufacturer, MakerBot, aims to put such a printer in every school in America, according to Rowlett. “If they do, we can provide those schools with the expertise to get them going,” he says.