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Albertsons Library MakerLab and Johnson gift National Geographic explorer 3D volcano model

Erik on stage; service dog sleeps at his feet, presentation shows video of volcano trip
Erik Weihenmeyer’s motivational talk showed some highlights from Welcome to Earth episode featuring Yasur Volcano.

Erik Weihenmeyer, a National Geographic explorer who has climbed Everest and kayaked the grand canyon, visited Boise on Feb. 9 to give a motivational talk with local company at the Boise Convention Center. Weihenmeyer is famed both for his adventurism and for the fact that he has accomplished his outdoor objectives as a blind person.

Boise State professor Jeffrey Johnson had the opportunity to catch up with Weihenmeyer during his short visit. Johnson spent a week with Weihenmeyer in December 2019 when the two of them, along with actor Will Smith, visited the exploding Yasur Volcano in Vanuatu. The group explored the volcano and discussed volcano sounds in a Welcome to Earth documentary on Disney+.

One of Johnson’s current projects is focused on understanding how the shape of a crater controls the volcano sounds during eruptions. Toward this goal Johnson mapped the Yasur’s volcanic crater and reconstructed an accurate three dimensional model of Yasur’s crater using a technology called structure-from-motion. This technology, taught as an advanced GIS class in the Department of Geosciences, uses quadcopter drones to fly overhead and take hundreds of photographs that are then stitched together.

Once the 3D volcano models are created they can be displayed on a computer or – thanks to Albertsons Library MakerLab 3D printers – turned in to solid form.

Erik and Jeffery hold crater models
Erik Weihenmeyer and Jeffrey Johnson at Boise Convention Center

“When we designed the MakerLab we wanted to make these technologies accessible to everyone,” said Amy Vecchione, Assistant Director of Research and Innovation at the eCampus Center. “I find it totally invigorating how using things like 3D printers we can take information and convert it into formats that folks with accessibility needs can use as well. The ability to take knowledge, convert it into something replicable that we can touch and feel – that’s what I strive to do in all of my work. These kinds of works can really help everyone, not just those with accessibility needs.”

In anticipation of Weihenmeyer’s visit Johnson received help from the MakerLab staff, including Interim Unit Head and Assistant Professor of Emerging Technologies and Experiential Learning, Yitzy Paul, to produce scaled models of the crater accurate to about 1 meter resolution.

“This type of multimodal learning that takes concepts and ideas out of the textbooks and into the hands is super important and it pleases me every day that I get to be a part of making that happen,” said Paul.

close up view of models
MakerLab volcano crater models printed at two different scales. The models are of the same crater, which is 400 m across and more than 300 m deep. Photo shared by Jeff Johnson

Weihenmeyer was given the Yasur crater models as a means to visualize the volcanic craters he had explored a few years earlier during the expedition with Will Smith and Johnson. After reconnecting today Johnson and Weihenmeyer plan to climb more volcanoes. Johnson also hopes to invite Weihenmeyer for a longer visit to Boise and to Boise State University. Weihenmeyer is now headed off for an extended rock climbing trip in Mexico.

-by Jeff Johnson