How University of Florida researchers are using 3D printing and digital fossils to improve education

How University of Florida researchers are using 3D printing and digital fossils to improve education

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A recently conducted case study on the effectiveness of utilizing 3D printing technology to teach intricate subjects within science to young students showcases what researchers from the University of Florida have been working on in a National Science Foundation-funded program called iDigFossils that offers curriculum on intricate subjects such as evolution and climate change through the usage of 3D printed fossil replicas. The case study of the University of Florida researchers revealed that the implementation of 3D printing-based interactive programs has had evident effect on the increase in the ability to concentrate and visualize intricate topics such as evolution.

As studied in this instance, the iDigFossils program asked students at middle and high schools in Florida and California to investigate how the fossil teeth of Megalodon teeth can reveal a shark’s total body length and how scientists are using data from modern sharks to better understand the nature of the ancient Megalodon that existed 2.6 million years ago.

Using 3D printed replicas of the 46 teeth of a Megalodon fossil from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s digital collections, at first, students reported widely varying body length and sizes as they worked with equations based on great white sharks’ anatomy. Revamping the basis for the equation after figuring out that great whites’ body proportions aren’t the same as Megalodon’s, students were able to provide accurate estimates of the length of the Megalodon’s body.