New media communications Instructor Todd Kesterson will lead a study abroad trip to Scotland next summer, giving students the opportunity to learn how 3D scanning technology can be used to preserve the past.

By Gabriella Grinbergs, CLA Writer - November 17, 2023

An upcoming, first-of-its-kind study abroad trip to Scotland, led by Todd Kesterson, senior instructor of new media communications and co-led by Joshua Reeves, associate professor of new media communications, will focus on the use of 3D scanning technology to preserve various historical sites. The two week, six credit program will allow students of any major to “discover the beauty and rich history of Scotland,” while gaining invaluable experience working with 3D  scanning tools.

Kesterson currently teaches courses on 3D modeling and virtual world design and has been an instructor at OSU for almost 20  years. He previously studied graphic design and art history at University of Oregon and worked in commercial animation before completing his MS in environmental education at Southern Oregon University. He later earned an MFA from Goddard College with emphasis on 3D animation.

He expressed a particular fascination with spatial storytelling – how a structure or setting tells a story all on its own without people being there – both virtually and in real life. This interest sparked a motivation to visit Scotland on sabbatical last spring. There, he further developed his appreciation for the historical roots attached to the structures.

He also met with researchers at Historic Environment Scotland, the “lead public body set up to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment.” They are part of Scotland’s initiative to preserve their national history, both physically and through 3D digitization.

“The tools I had been using my whole career are actually being … utilized in a way that is hugely beneficial to historical conservation,” Kesterson said.

The main purpose of this global technological initiative is “to try to protect structures digitally," Kesterson said, “that are either being lost through war, floods, fire, endless reasons, so that when we lose something we have a detailed 3D digital record of it.”

Not only for castles and cathedrals, 3D preservation projects could have the potential to digitally document, Kesterson added, homes or local sites that have been damaged or lost in climate change-fueled natural disasters, like the 2020 wildfires that decimated regions along the west coast.

One of the companies responsible for this valuable technological initiative, Cyark, was the first to catch Kesterson’s attention. Cyark scans monuments from all over the world and uploads their progress for public access on their website. The organization determines which sites are most at-risk of damage from natural disasters and links additional information to each uploaded project.

Students who will embark on the trip to Scotland will post their scanned models on a website called Sketchfab. This site has a vast collection of publicly accessible 3D models, including many Scottish monuments such as the Edinburgh Castle. Historic Environment Scotland and Cyark digitized  the building using  ground-based and aerial laser scanning and photogrammetry – a 3D amalgamation process of combining a collection of photos.

Though he never got the chance to study abroad in college, Kesterson hopes to give this rich educational opportunity to students who are not only interested, but haven’t traveled outside of the U.S. before.

“When you look at something like a cathedral … you don’t know what it’s like until you walk in. I can see how people felt the presence of God walking through a small opening into this massive space,” Kesterson describes. “There’s really no way of simulating the culture of a place. You’ve just gotta be there.”

After the two weeks in Scotland, students will work remotely with faculty to develop a complete multimedia project reflecting their experiences, consisting of photos, videos, written components, and their own 3D scans from the trip.

“I just want to share Scotland with them; that’s at the core of it,” Kesterson said. “I hope people gain the understanding and appreciation for the 3D heritage preservation objectives of the course.”

To be considered for 2024's faculty-led study abroad experience to Scotland, please visit the Office of Global Opportunities' program page.