BYU Tech Expo features talking gadgets and 3D printers

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Amongst all the buzz of the student traffic through the Wilkinson Center, BYU’s Tech Expo thrived.

Several students lined up and crowded around different booths, waiting for the next presentation or demo of products on display. Peter Sentz, product manager of the Office of Information Technology, was a major part of getting the entire event put together.

BYU TechExpo 2015. This event featured many different products including a 3D printer and a smartpen.
BYU TechExpo 2015. This event featured many products including a 3D printer and a smartpen. (Maddi Driggs)

“I’m the product manager, so I’m in charge of the products on campus,” Sentz said, “I make sure we’re getting good support.”

One of the biggest hypes of this year’s expo was a 3D printer found on campus in the HBLL.

BYU student Jed Johnson, who supervises software training and works at the Science Help desk, explained how the printing process works.

“We teach classes on how to model objects,” Johnson said, “It uses PLA, it’s a corn-based plastic. It’s called Poly-lactic Acetate.”

Johnson pressed a button and the printer quickly got to work. Layer by layer it constructed a tangible skull out of plastic. He explained building layer by layer, even this small skull not bigger than a quarter would take about an hour to print. He explained that they have also printed life-size 3D models of the human brain by using students’ MRI scans taken right here on BYU campus. Those take about one day to print.

Another booth featured a smartpen named LiveScribe 3 that can record the audio of the lecture while students take down notes.

Brittany Richard describes the functions of LiveScribe 3. LiveScribe is a smartpen that simultaneously records audio while students talk notes.
Brittany Richard describes the functions of LiveScribe 3. LiveScribe is a smartpen that simultaneously records audio while the writer pens notes. (Maddi Driggs)

Brittany Richard, an associate from Douglas Stewart Co., explained just how smart this smartpen is.

“The smartpen records audio at the same time you’re taking your notes and allows you to play back later on anywhere on the page,” Richard said.

Even if the student loses track while taking notes, the smartpen can still help them find their place in the lecture.

“If you have some of those obscure notes, if you pause somewhere in there, it will start playing back and you can kind of fill in the blanks,” Richard said. “Maybe if you didn’t write down everything during lecture.”

Richard explained that the pen only works on a certain type of paper called infrared paper.

“If you look at it really, really close there are teeny, tiny, little dots on the paper,” Richard said, “Each dot has a latitude and a longitude, so it tells the software exactly what paper you were on and where on the page, and that’s how it finds that audio later on.”

One booth gave information about online tools offered to students on campus that they may not even know about. Alex Trump, a BYU student in information technology, talked to students about how they can get their own website domain for free through BYU. No charge at all.

“Yeah, like, (your name).com,” Trump said. “It’s completely free until you’re graduated.”

Trump gave all the credit to his Information Technology supervisor.

“Peter’s the one that’s made all this possible,” Trump said.

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