LBL Whole Frog Project Summary

Imaging and Distributed Computing Group
Information and Computing Sciences Division
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
Berkeley, CA 94720

Publication number: LBL-32476


Sophisticated image-based applications have the potential to play an important part in enhancing curriculum in a variety of disciplines, both cultural and scientific, and in providing K-12 students with the involvement and motivation to learn a wide variety of computer skills. An example of this is our ``Whole Frog'' project. In this project the idea is two fold: First is to demonstrate the utility of image based applications in biological sciences through a demonstration of whole body, 3D imaging of anatomy as a curriculum tool; and second, to introduce the concepts of computer based imaging and 3D geometry and visualization.

The curriculum goal of the Whole Frog Project is to provide high school biology classes the ability to explore the anatomy of a frog by using data from high resolution MRI imaging and mechanical sectioning, together with 3D surface and volume rendering software to visualize the anatomical structures of the original animal. Ultimately we intend to be able to ``enter the heart and fly down blood vessels, poking our head out at any point to see the structure of the surrounding anatomy''. The secondary goal of this project is to introduce the concepts of modeling and displaying 3D structures directly from 3D images obtained, for example, from MRI imaging (biological specimens), X-ray CT imaging (industrial imaging of non-biological objects), and direct generation from mathematical descriptions. Introducing this technology requires training teachers and students in the concepts and tools of image acquisition, enhancement, and analysis, and in the construction and manipulation of 3D graphical representations.

The realization of the potential impact of this technology on students grew out of our experience with undergraduate courses in computer graphics and image processing. The experimental study unit for biology was developed with the assistance of several high school teachers, and during the summer of 1991 we conducted an experiment to establish the parameters of a more extensive program. In this experiment we used a computer science graduate student to train two high school biology teachers in the use and concepts of the computer systems and tools needed to image and visualize 3D objects (initially an orange). To introduce this technology we trained teachers in:

These teachers were enthusiastic learners, and as they mastered the concepts they suggested modifications in the material and techniques that will be needed to introduce this material into the classroom.

A next logical step will be to develop material for summer workshops to be held at LBL, and attended by both teachers and students. These workshops will further develop the materials and techniques needed to introduce advanced imaging technology into the classroom. The ultimate goal is to place high speed computer networks and workstations in the schools in order to make this technology a part of the regular curriculum.

The whole frog project is an example of one class of exploratory imaging applications, other examples of this 3D imaging and visualization include a high resolution X-ray CT scan of a small jet engine, and 3D confocal microscope images of large uni-cellular organisms like Paramecium. Other classes of imaging applications that we have proposed for involving advanced imaging, computing, and networking technology in the secondary education system include a ``digital darkroom'' project, on-line access to earth image repositories (both the EROS Data Center and U. S. Sprint have expressed interest in this), and on-line access to museum image databases (for example U. C. Berkeley's Lowie Museum of Anthropology). This capability has now been enabled by Moasic / WWW.

We are currently developing the technology to bring an optical microscope on to the network in a way that permits remote control and manipulation, and display of live video output from the microscope. (See Video Microscope project.)

At the present time, the available material includes a study outline, numerous images of the frog and several plants, the high resolution volume data sets and 3D models for various internal structures of the objects that have been studied, scripts and prescriptions for display and manipulation in several volume rendering packages, a teacher produced MacroMind Director multimedia frog anatomy sequence, and several movies (in the form of digital image sequences, some of which have been transferred to video tape).

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Page last modified: 01/09/05
Contacts: Bill Johnston, David Robertson