Raritan Valley Community College Professor Stephen Kaufman shows students in his Human Origins class a fossil that had been replicated on a 3D printer.

Use of 3D Printers Helps Bring Fossils “to Life” for RVCC Students

Because of a unique partnership between a Raritan Valley Community College academic program and one of the College’s workforce offerings, a group of anthropology students has gained a better understanding of a recent fossil discovery in South Africa.

Twenty students in RVCC Professor Stephen Kaufman’s Human Origins class visited the College’s Advanced Manufacturing Lab on October 22. While Kaufman lectured about a newly discovered species, Homo naledi, the Advanced Manufacturing program coordinator brought the discovery “to life” for the students.

Raritan Valley Community College Professor Stephen Kaufman shows students in his Human Origins class a fossil that had been replicated on a 3D printer.

Raritan Valley Community College Professor Stephen Kaufman shows students in his Human Origins class a fossil that had been replicated on a 3D printer.

Working from archeologists’ computer images, Conrad Mercurius demonstrated how one of the College’s 3D printers could replicate fossils of the Homo naledi, discovered in the South African cave system called Rising Star. The newly discovered fossils may be 2-3 million years old.

Mercurius also spoke about the new technology and some of its possible future applications. He explained that one of the advantages of 3D printing is that it represents “additive” manufacturing, which offers no waste of materials. Mercurius sees an endless set of connections between the RVCC workforce program’s technological resources and traditional academics. He plans to work with faculty and students to demonstrate how the new technology can substantively enhance student learning.

During last week’s class, students also were given the opportunity to handle the replicas in order to better appreciate the significance of the new finds. The Human Origins class’ work will now proceed using the created 3D images and data files, according to Kaufman.

Raritan Valley Community College’s main campus is located at 118 Lamington Road in Branchburg, NJ. Serving Somerset and Hunterdon County residents for close to 50 years, RVCC is an educational and cultural center that is nationally recognized for its innovative programming, service to the community and environmental leadership. The College offers more than 90 associate degrees and certificates, as well as career training, professional development and personal enrichment courses. The College also has a performing arts center and planetarium.

RVCC is committed to offering a quality and affordable education through effective teaching, liaisons with the community’s businesses and state-of-the-art technology. For further information, visit www.raritanval.edu.

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Students in Raritan Valley Community College Professor Stephen Kaufman’s Human Origins class examine a replica of a lower jaw that was created on a 3D printer.

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Mission Statement:
Raritan Valley Community College is an educational community that works to develop critical thinking, foster intellectual curiosity, promote leadership, encourage social responsibility, support personal growth, and sustain engaged citizenship within a diverse population of students and community members.
Diversity Statement:
Raritan Valley Community College values all aspects of diversity including but not limited to race, sexual orientation, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, socioeconomic status, and political and philosophical perspectives. We rely on diversity to enrich the intellectual environment for students and employees. We support educational access and opportunity by recruiting and retaining a diverse college community. We foster diversity by developing and maintaining curricular and social programs that infuse the contributions of all people, and by preparing students to excel in a global society. Our commitment to diversity is reflected in the College’s Mission Statement and Strategic Goals, all of which support excellence in teaching, learning and professional development in a welcoming and respectful climate.
Core Values:
• RVCC is an open admission institution with high standards and excellent support services.
• RVCC serves as an important center for our community.
• RVCC participates as a reliable partner with the region’s K-12 schools to support active learning and college readiness.
• RVCC must provide support for student success, but students are responsible for their own achievements.
• The College values the diversity of our communities as a resource that strengthens the institution.
• The College is accountable for the prudent use of all its resources and seeks transparency in all its operations.
• The College measures its success against national models and standards.
• The College commits to environmentally sustainable practices.
• Educational programs must be affordable.
• A healthy college community depends on integrity and respect.
• The best college decisions are made on a learning-centered foundation.
• Learning is a lifelong endeavor.