Your Name

Clemson Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Collaborative Data Visualization Applications Summer 2014

Home Institution

Clemson University
Clemson, South Carolina

Clemson Research Mentor

Dr. Melissa Vogel

Clemson Visualization Mentor

Dr. Vetria Byrd
Computer Science

About Me

I love to make things either physically or virtually. I'm really excited to be learning new computer software such as Blender. As a civil engineering major I've learned how to utilize many materials to create structures and now I can use this software to model structures. When I'm not working in the lab to create visualizations I love to be outdoors as much as possible. In the summer I'm always in the water swimming, canoeing, or just laying out in the sun. When it gets colder I love to go for a run with my dog. When it gets really cold I never leave the comforts of my heated blanket and watch cartoons all day.

Project Description: Interpreting Ancient Cities

This project takes real, quantitative archaeological data from the Pre-Columbian city of El Purgatorio, Peru, and recreates the built environment using 3D modeling software. Students will be generating virtual reconstructions of ancient architecture to scale, using maps, drawings, photographs and fieldnotes. This visualization of archaeological data allows for deeper interpretations and richer understanding of ancient urban environments and how they were utilized and experienced by urban dwellers. These types of visualizations allow for more cost-effective investigation and conservation of archaeological sites by maximizing the interpretive potential of the data while minimizing invasive activities such as excavation. The results of this project will be published on the project website to allow both scholars and the general public to experience this late prehistoric city that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Week 1

I had to get off to a rolling start at the beginning of the program. Once I had gotten situated into the program my first task was to learn a visualization software called Blender. It seems odd that I can summarize my first week into one sentence but learning how to use Blender took a lot of time. Usually when I do something in Blender I do it the wrong way twice and the correct way the third time. The second week of the program there will be a lecture on Blender and a contact in the Digital Production Arts program to help me out when I need it.

Week 2

One of the challenges of student research is the limited time. Sometimes students graduate or leave the program before they can complete everything. My first task was to finish some of the work left behind. Once I felt comfortable with Blender, I worked on the wall surrounding one of the complexes. An interesting thing about this wall is that it was not symmetrical: one side was significantly shorter than the other. With the Blender rendering you can travel through the complex as if you are there. If someone entered the complex from the west side they could easily see into the plaza. The eastern wall,however, prevents you from seeing into the plaza. One of the many themes Dr. Vogel studies is the idea of access and how these structures control it. By virtually recreating this complex, Dr. Vogel can show to others how the Peruvians design their structures to control access. Through this we can learn more about the Peruvian society as a whole.


Week 3

I’ve been familiarizing myself with Blender and constantly viewing tutorials. There are half a dozen ways to do everything and each has its merits and disabilities. I’ve been keeping a word document recording notes on how to do things and helpful shortcuts. This week, I focused on textures. The projects I’ve received haven’t been texturized yet. I’ve never worked with a design program that uses textures so UV layouts are very foreign to me. I struggled throughout the week with this. There are many ways to create textures so it was very overwhelming for me. I met with Gina and she showed me extremely advanced ways to do textures. I think a disadvantage of having her as a mentor is that she was taught how to create very professional level work. She said in our tour that they spend 100 man hours for every second of work they create. I think this is amazing, but it’s certainly not easy for a beginner. She would show me how to create the textures but in doing so there’s about half a dozen things I’d need to know how to do first before using her method. I worked to understand the programs she told me to use to create the textures.


Week 4

I continued to work on textures and Blender. I created halfway decent textures using Gina’s method but there are a lot of little issues with them that I don’t know how to resolve. I added a few things to one of the models including a natural hillside and walls to border the site. We attended enrichment lectures and seminars throughout the week about visualization programs. One of these is a meeting to present our midterm progress. I created a PowerPoint and a 5-minute presentation to show my work.


Week 5

This Friday is Independence Day (July 4th I cannot express what a relief it’s been. I finally found some tutorials that have an easy method. It seems like it happened overnight: everything started to click together. I placed the final textures onto one of the projects and am still working to find the perfect materials for another. It’s been a relief to finally feel comfortable with this. In addition to texturing I’ve added architectural changes to one of the models. )! This week I’ve finally understood textures.


Week 6

I’ve added the final textures to everything. There’s thousands of textures on and it took a lot of time navigating through them, trying different ones out and seeing what works best. In addition to this I’ve taken stills recording my work. That was another breakthrough. I’ve always been very confused about the rendering mode. I’m finally much more comfortable working with it. I feel as if my knowledge of Blender is increasing on an exponential curve. It was very frustrating and discouraging in the beginning. I wish I knew what I know now at the beginning of the REU! I’ve added more architectural changes to the project.


Week 7

Monday of this week I sent stills of pottery studio to Dr. Vogel Tuesday of this Week, Dr. Vogel noticed some things that needed to be changed. I changed them and finalized the stills of pottery studio. Wednesday I went through the same process with El Purg. I sent some stills into Dr. Vogel, she noticed things that she wanted changed and I changed them. One of the things that was difficult to do was a natural hillside. That’s something that you have to fiddle with until you think it looks normal. Creating an abstract shape in blender that looks like falling sand takes a lot of tinkering but I eventually got something I was satisfied with. Thursday I sent in some stills of El Purg to Dr. Vogel. At this point it looks like everything is how it should be, but we'll look at it closer when we meet in person. On Friday I received the field notes for my final milestone and began working on that.


Last updated: 7/21/2014