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Advances in technical imaging boost engineering education

October 28, 2010

The advent of high-speed imaging technology has allowed events or actions to be captured that one cannot see with just the naked eye. This technology has been used in the classrooms, especially in engineering schools, revolutionizing how engineering students learn.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the leaders in its use today to teach future engineers new concepts and foster hands-on learning. James Bales, assistant director of The Edgerton Center at MIT will present “Strobes, Camera, Bullet: Hands-on Engineering Education through Technical Imaging,” from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Nov. 4, in Picacho Hall, room 150, at ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa.

“We have found that the excitement of creating eye-popping images can help engage our students in hands-on, project-based learning,” Bales said. “For example, in MIT's subject ‘Strobe Project Lab’, we use the tools and techniques of high-speed imaging to teach students the essentials of planning and executing technical projects.”

Last summer, ASU faculty member Penny Ann Dolin in the College of Technology and Innovation, attended a one-week course given by Bales and his fellow MIT colleagues covering high-speed, thermal and Schlieren photography. Dolin has been a commercial photographer for more than 30 years and has taught at ASU for 12. She is in the process of designing and developing a Technical Imaging Lab that will explore high-speed imaging, stroboscopic and thermal photography. 

“Technical imaging is an exciting facet of photography which allows us to use it as an analytical instrument and tool in observing phenomena. This takes the basic technologies and approaches used in commercial photography and builds upon them in such a way as to be valuable not only to GIT students, but the engineering and science disciplines also,” Dolin said.

Such a focus will translate well in expanding the existing Graphic Information Technology degree program in addition to aiding in the further development of the engineering programs in the college.

“By enhancing our capabilities in high-speed technical imaging, we will be able to better understand and evaluate the dynamic evolution of physical systems, which has application in nearly every field in our college,” said Keith Hjelmstad, university vice president and dean of the College of Technology and Innovation.

In addition to the lecture Nov. 4, Dolin will unveil a gallery of more than 40 photos she and students have taken to feature the art of technology. The gallery, called “Educating Corridors: The Art of Technology,” was developed with parameters that called for the photographers to create artistic images using items from the labs, the labs themselves and campus buildings. The images adorn the walls in Santan and Peralta halls at the Polytechnic campus and tours through both spaces will be provided following the lecture.

“The white walls in our new buildings were begging for color," Hjelmstad said. "The Educating Corridors project was inspired by a desire to bring vibrancy to our corridors while at the same time educating the passersby about our unique polytechnic learning environment – to educate both inside and outside of our classrooms and laboratories. Penny was able to capture the beauty of our disciplines in a way that also amplifies our belief that the aesthetic and the technical go hand in hand.”

For information on the Nov. 4 lecture and gallery unveiling, contact Nora at (480) 727-5232.

Christine Lambrakis