Feel the Physics! Can tactile geophysical data enrich public engagement with archaeological sites?

Supervisor: Dr Adam Booth

Department: School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds


This project lies at the interface of archaeological science, public engagement and design engineering. With science-based archaeology and public communication identified as NERC research areas, the project is highly NERC-facing.

The intern will work alongside our “Feel the Physics!” project, funded through Leeds Public Engagement team. This project aims to enrich public engagement with archaeo-geophysical data by transforming the visual presentation of geophysical data into an accessible tactile format. 3-D printing technology will be used to produce a physically-textured model of an archaeological image, from data recorded with geophysical instrumentation. By bridging this accessibility gap, viusal archaeological data could be physically felt by a user holding the model of the site. This would be a unique presentation of a geophysical dataset, and one that would have powerful benefits for broadening public engagement, inclusive of those both with and without visual impairment and thus boosting the diversity of those interacting with environmental science data.

In this project, the intern will work with pre-recorded archaeo-geophysical data from the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone (close to Barnsley) and will also have the opportunity to acquire their own data. The research effort is directed towards optimising data processing such that the 3D printed version remains a faithful representation of the data while also being physically practical to print. The student will receive training in the use of data processing methods, but will then have autonomy to produce a suite of protoypes. Dr Adam Booth (SEE) will support the geophysical aspects of the project, while the 3D production will be guided by Dr Briony Thomas and Dr Ray Holt (Leeds Mechanical Engineering). With data already available, prototype 3D surfaces can easily be generated in the 6-week duration of the internship.

The prototypes will be showcased at workshops run at Elsecar Heritage Action Zone, including links to the forhcoming British Festival of Archaeology. The student therefore has the opportunity to work with archaeo-geophysical data, novel 3D printing technologies and directly interface with public engagement – a unique combination of experienses in a truly multi-disciplinary internship opportunity. The project will suit an intern with skills and interests in geophysical data analysis, principally in Matlab, or alternatively in 3D manufacturing software such as Solidworks / Keyshot. Support can be offered in the use of any of these software packages.