Saturday, June 22, 2024

CNA team sparks tech enthusiasm

CNA’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation’s Reality Capture and Digitization Technology Access Centre (RCD TAC) engages young minds in the wonders of 3D technology 

By Allison Rowe

CNA’s RCD TAC team recently embarked on an interactive, educational school visit aimed at inspiring young minds and igniting a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among local youth.

The special occasion took place on April 22 at Brookside Intermediate School in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, catering to a class of 21 Grade 6 students at the school. Spearheading the event were RCD TAC staff intern Nicholas Kelly, and CNA students Allie Lynch and Shane Collett, alongside Brookside’s own 6th-grade teacher, Sam Paterson.

The purpose of the visit was to help demystify advanced technologies, nurture curiosity, and pave the way for future innovation by introducing young learners to the exciting world of tech.  

“The day was dedicated to learning about STEM, innovation, and 3D and RCD tech, a field that is revolutionizing how we view and interact with the physical and digital worlds,” said Allie Lynch.

A former nurse turned Mechanical Engineer in manufacturing and new startup Founder, Lynch knows firsthand about the transformative power of tech. It was a recent podcast about Lynch’s own invention, Lickety Splint – a one-piece wrappable splint that anyone can apply easily and quickly in an emergency – that lead to the interactive visit at Brookside. (To learn more about Lickety Splint, listen to Allie’s podcast)

It was Allie’s 11-year-old niece Abby who brought the podcast to the attention of her teacher, prompting the request for the interactive visit.

“I listened to the Best in the Biz Podcast with my aunt Allie, and I was like, wow, that’s her brain and her idea, and her invention!” beamed Abby with pride at her aunt’s accomplishments. “After a lot of emails back and forth we came to the conclusion that she should come in, so what started off as just an idea turned into something much, much larger, not only the Lickety Splint and school visit, but an experience that not only me, but my whole class will never forget!”  

The children are gearing up for a class project on innovation and Mr. Paterson felt the interactive visit would help give them a tangible grasp on the many applications of technology for innovation. It also showed them just how much fun tech can be. 

Innovation  

The visit kicked off with a brief introduction to STEM and the concept of innovation followed by a demonstration of Lynch’s splint invention. The students learned how innovative ideas reshape our world everyday by finding new ways to solve problems and provide out-of-the-box solutions. They also learned about the process of creating and marketing new products from prototypes to patents to pitches.

“Learning by trying new things, failing and taking that learning back to the drawing board until you get it right, is the key to innovation”, said Lynch. “That’s the process we follow in the classroom and in industry.” 

3D Printing 

Next, the students were introduced to the creative possibilities of 3D printing. They learned about the 3D printing process from conceptual model to physical creation and how 3D models are first designed on CAD software, then sliced into thin, virtual printable layers, and finally brought to life by “Max” (the Creator Max Flashforge 3D Printer) in a process akin to constructing with thin flat LEGO blocks. The classroom buzzed with excitement as students watched their creations come to life including a 3D-printed crocodile character named Greg.  

Reality Capture 

The next part of the STEM journey explored the world of “reality capture” showing how we convert physical objects into digital imagery. Using a special Creaform scanner, students witnessed the creation of virtual replicas of real-world objects called ‘digital twins’, opening a portal to endless possibilities like the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) the students see in videogames. Nicholas Kelly and Shane Collet demonstrated the step-by-step process to follow to create a digital twin including the importance of safety and precision, teaching students to respect the power of laser technology while embracing its creative potential. 

Collet said, “The students were very engaged and interested in the topic of reality capture. Witnessing the circuit board appear fully scanned in a small amount of time was amazing to them. I hope this exposure to reality capture could help in their futures and show them about the future technological world we will soon all live in.”

3D Pen Art

Much to the students’ delight, the session ended off with a hands-on activity creating 3D pen art. The students discovered the magic of drawing beyond the page, where a pen doesn’t just mark paper, but builds structures in the air. With melted plastic as their medium, they learned to draw three-dimensional objects, from intricate jewelry to hats and accessories for ‘Greg’. The 3D pen, a tool that defies traditional art boundaries, allowed the students to explore their creativity in a whole new dimension.

“This activity not only showcased the versatility of 3D technology, but also encouraged the students to think outside the box and envision art in a form that’s not confined to two dimensions,” noted Collet. 

In an unexpected twist, Greg the 3D model, became the tangible personified helper of the visit. This unique reversal of the typical process—where reality becomes digital—occurred as the children used 3D pens to craft accessories like hats for their newfound friend. When asked what their favourite part of the visit was, the students responded with a resounding ‘Greg’. Much to their delight, they each received a 3D printed copy of their own Greg to take home.

“I loved how it was so hands on and my whole class go to use a 3D printing pen and actually make stuff!”  exclaimed Abby. She was especially excited about the tiny 3D shoes she got to make for her reptile friend. “Everything was amazing! It was super cool!” 

Paterson was pleased to see how much the kids enjoyed getting hands-on, trying out the prototypes, and seeing the 3D scanners and printers in action. He was also impressed with the level of engagement and critical thinking they demonstrated with the many great questions they asked and their eagerness to participate.

“As this generation of students gets older and reaches high school, it will be so crucial for them to have the communication, collaboration and creative skills they saw on display from the CNA team,” he reiterated. 

Key Takeaways and Impact: 

When queried regarding the impact of the visit on the students Mr. Paterson was equally emphatic, “At Brookside, we love to provide our students with authentic, hands-on learning experiences, and this was such an excellent opportunity to do just that. Connection with the community is a key component of Deep Learning and helps fill in the gaps that I can’t really provide as a teacher.”  

Paterson’s students had been working on a variety of design projects throughout the year, so when he heard about the possibility of bringing in experts in design, innovation and making, he jumped at the opportunity.

“The students were wrapped up in the presentation right from square one! In my experience, learners like to hear about things happening in real life, being done by people they can relate to.” He added that seeing Allie Lynch, who comes from a relatable background and speaks in a way the children could understand and engage with, was crucial. He went on to state that especially for girls in late elementary grades, research shows it is extremely important for them to see themselves reflected in the careers and pursuits they want to explore.

“Allie is such a good role model. They were so engaged when she talked about her design and research process and demonstrated the tools she uses. Hearing her message about how she was inspired by wanting to help others and solve real-life problems was a great illustration of what I try to teach them in my STEM lessons,” he said.

Nicholas Kelly also reflected on the broader impact of the visit, emphasizing the early introduction to technology as a cornerstone for future educational choices.

“The kids in the class were enthusiastic and engaged, asking many questions, and getting involved with hands on parts of the presentation. Visits like these empower students to envision themselves as creators and innovators and help them to see the potential of technology in their lives and future careers. The earlier they are introduced to something, the less confusing it becomes,” noted Kelly.

Gauging by the response of these young students, the future is in good hands. The initiative serves as a testament to the importance of early exposure to STEM education. The kids were still talking about the visit on the bus ride home with ‘Greg’. 

Future Plans:  

The event was such a big hit with the students that the CNA team has been invited back to help the kids with their upcoming innovation projects.

“This opens doors for future CNA visits and continued engagement with these young folks,” said Collet. “We couldn’t be more delighted by the outcome and the level of engagement and excitement of these kids. We can’t wait to go back.”

Paterson echoed the sentiment, “It was an awesome experience to have the team come into my classroom. The team was extremely generous with their time and resources. It was really appreciated. We look forward to hosting them again soon as we work on our Innovation Fair projects.” 

CNA’s visit to Brookside Intermediate stands as a shining example of how post-secondary institutions working in conjunction with school-aged educational institutions can play a pivotal role in shaping the future trailblazers of tomorrow. It’s a story of college ambassadors at work, fostering a new generation of innovators. 

About the Reality Capture and Digitization Technology Access Centre (RCD TAC) 

The Reality Capture and Digitization Technology Access Centre (RCD TAC) is a research facility housed under CNA’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation. RCD TAC is a hub for industry and community to access cutting-edge technology like drones with LiDAR and scanners. Located in St. John’s, NL, RCD TAC is a proud member of Tech-Access Canada’s network of specialized centres nationwide.

Ready to Innovate? 

Connect with RCD TAC today to elevate your project. Let’s turn your vision into digital reality!

ar@cna.nl.ca  |  709-758-7474 | www.cna.nl.ca/research-and-innovation/rcdtac  


If you have a story to share, please feel free to email Editor Ryanne McIsaac at Ryanne.McIsaac@cna.nl.ca.

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Allison Rowe
Allison Rowe
Allison Rowe is the Community Relations Officer for the Office of Applied Research and Innovation (OARI) Reality Capture and Digitization Technology Access Centre (RCD TAC). Her career spans a variety of positions across corporate, government, non-profit, and educational sectors both domestically and internationally, including roles at the OECD and McKinsey & Company. With over 20 years’ experience in communications and stakeholder engagement, she is passionate about fostering business growth and innovation via inter-disciplinary collaboration for the cross-pollination of ideas. Hailing from Corner Brook, NL, she is fluent in several languages and holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from Mount Allison University.

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