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Student models Zaharias’ medals for sharing nationwide

A Lamar University Reaud Honors College student is creating shareable Babe Didrikson Zaharias medals.

Museums around the world often request to exhibit the medals on display at the Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Katherine Correa OUR Awards
Provost Dr. Brenda Nichols, Katherine Correa, Dr. Kelley Bradley 
 Museum Visitors Center in Beaumont. The medals were awarded between 1930 and 1950 to Babe Didrikson Zaharias, considered one of the greatest athletes of all time, for her achievements in golf, baseball and track and field. Zaharias, a Port Arthur native, won 10 Ladies Professional Golf Association major championships, among others.

President of the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum Foundation, W.L. Pate, is hesitant to loan the medals but also doesn’t want to deny people the knowledge of Zaharias' accomplishments and of her legacy.

 Pate, a Lamar University graduate, contacted his alma mater to inquire about the feasibility of making replicas of the medals that could be sent to requesting museums, leaving the originals at home.

“We have innumerable requests from museums to display her memorabilia.  Some of the requests are for extended periods, which means that our visitors are denied the opportunity to see them,” said Pate. “Our project with Lamar University would allow us to help students of our university develop their skills, as well as allow others around the country to view exact replicas of specific medals.  Many are aware of the foundation's support of Lamar University through our seven endowed scholarships in Women's Athletics.  This project allows the foundation to expand its support into other vital departments. We are delighted to partner with Lamar University and encourage other organizations to do so as well.”

Katherine Correa, a drawing and biology major, became aware of the museum’s need and saw an opportunity to learn something new, pursue research and make her own glasses.

“I became interested in pursuing this project because I long had the desire to pursue a research project as well as recently developed the desire to learn about 3D modeling because I could apply this knowledge to create biological models in the career I wish to pursue as a medical illustrator; also it could help me in my personal project of 3D printing glasses,” said Correa. “Overall this project intrigued me because it was the chance for me to learn, have a mentor to guide me in my learning, gain a skill I could use for the bettering of the community and showcase how STEM and art can come together in a project.”

She also wanted to delve further into 3D printing to create her own new pair of glasses. Before the project ever began, Correa had been working to render her glasses digitally to 3D print them at home.

“I have myopia and have to wear very thick glasses for my bad eyesight,” said Correa. “My glasses had broken just as the coronavirus pandemic was starting in March, and I was unable to get any replacements for them then. Because of my desperate need for glasses, I resorted to even taping my broken glasses to my face. This, to me, was not such a great solution so I started to experiment with a 3D modeling program introduced to me in my one of my classes called Tinkercard.”

Although Correa had experience with Tinkercad, it was not suitable for the medal project, so she began experimenting with a beginner modeling program called Sculptris, a more advanced sculpting program.  Once comfortable with handling the program, Correa began working to refine the initial scanned 3D model that project mentor Dr. Kelley Bradley had developed. However, Correa soon realized that Sculptris would not even open the file.

“Even though she had no previous experience, I challenged Katherine to teach herself how to use 3D modeling software to make a digital replica,” said Bradley, assistant professor, industrial systems engineering. “Not only did she teach herself to use the software, but within a month she was already exploring different approaches such as photogrammetry.”

From Sculptris, Correa moved on to a program called Blender. “I also began to teach myself how to use a
Babe Zaharias Medals
Results from 3D Modeling using Blender.
photogrammetry program called Meshroom to see if the 3D model of the medal could be rendered by taking only pictures of it,” said Correa. “I suggested the use of photogrammetry so that the medal would not have to be touched which would reduce the chance of damage to the medals. Finally, it was decided that using an optical profilometer to scan create a digital surface profile of the medal was best, due to higher accuracy.”

After several months of modeling the medals, Correa and Bradley determined that the level of detail in the medals would require too much work to be captured through the tools they had available. Tinkercard, Sculptris and Blender, which are all free and available for anyone to download and try, were not suitable for the medal project. However, Correa began applying her new knowledge in 3D sculpting/modeling in her immunology class by modeling an immunological cell as a part of an honors' contract project.

“With the preliminary work in hand, we realized that we needed better equipment so Katherine applied for an Office of Undergraduate Research grant, and with this award she will be able to use an optical profilometer to capture detailed 3D profiles of the medals,” said Bradley.

Correa will travel to Rice University in Houston to use the school’s profilmeter that will scan the medal and
Babe Zaharias Medals 2

Left: Tthe original Dr. Bradley developed before modifications

Right, after several hours of modifications in Blender.

take note of its surface heights and depths, basically rending a detailed map of the surface.

“After we have the digital rendering of the model, I can take the model in the sculpting program Blender and refine it,” said Correa. “Once refined, the medal will be 3D printed, used to make imprints into silicone where resin will then be casted into these silicone molds for the making of a resin medal.”

The resulting replicas will be hand painted. Correa and Bradley’s process to make a 3D intermediary medal, will reduce the possibility of damage to the original medals possible using a resin casting by scanning of the original medal.”

“This is a great example of how the Office of Undergraduate Research can help highlight LU students and give them opportunities to really shine while benefiting the community,” said Bradley. “This is also a great example of interdisciplinary research.”

If this project is successful, Correa hopes it will lead to her original personal mission – developing a method to 3D print glasses frames at home and possibly a career path.

“I want to be able to use my drawing to translate complex scientific matters into something more comprehensible so that many may learn from them,” said Correa. “I also have a great interest in optometry and would like to develop a method to create custom-made glasses frames that can be designed and 3D printed from home.”