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3D-printed topographical maps could help bring classroom lessons to life

Posted by Jacqui Adams on

Taken from Digital Trends

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What do the military, digital mapping, and the school system have in common? The answer can be found in a new Kickstarter project that’s hoping to shake up classroom learning with the help of 3D mapping software.

Called Sightline Maps, the project promises to give schools the ability to easily generate accurate 3D-printed topographical maps to bring a variety of learning scenarios to life.

“What the software does is to take GIS (geographic information system) map data and convert it into a point-cloud, which lets you create a 3D file,” Jason Ray, one of Sightline’s three co-founders, told Digital Trends. Teachers can use this three-dimensional data either to show students the 3D models on-screen, or to print it out to use as a learning aid.

“For example, a history teacher teaching about Hannibal crossing the Alps could 3D-print a model of the Alps to help students understand how treacherous the terrain was,” Ray continued. “A geography teacher could print a scale model of Mount Everest and also the largest mountain or hill in their class’ state, and use this to spatially give kids an understanding of the world around them. It lets teachers easily communicate in a much more visual way.”

Ray explained that his co-founder Ben Judge first developed the idea while serving in the Navy Reserve. The tech to convert satellite map images into topographical 3D-printed maps was originally developed for mission planning. “Typically the topography of a site was done in a sandbox,” he explained. “This represented a much better way at depicting the geography of an area.”

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