Biodiesel University Mobile Lab

Promoting Energy Education in a Mobile Laboratory

Projects - Biodiesel University Mobile Lab

In March 2008, Direct Dimensions traveled to a bus maintenance yard near Washington, DC to 3D laser scan a decommissioned city transit bus formerly owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The scan was performed for the Biodiesel University, a non-profit organization based in Olney, MD which seeks to educate students, teachers, and the public at large about renewable energy and environmental stewardship. Dan Goodman, executive director of Biodiesel University, called upon Direct Dimensions to aid in converting the donated WMATA bus into a mobile educational lab, which Goodman has described as “part classroom, part hands-on science center, and part theme park ride.” The engineering challenge required cutting-edge capabilities from Direct Dimensions to not only scan the bus but also to create an accurate 3D CAD model so the bus can be repurposed for its educational mission. Given the current energy situation and attention to renewable energy, the project was captured on video for an upcoming feature story on ABC News.

To start the project, Direct Dimensions industrial designer Glenn Woodburn used the FARO LS long-range 3D scanner to take six scans of the bus’s interior and exterior in less than two hours. Each scan collected over 25 million 3D points providing a very high-resolution ‘point cloud.’ This captured raw data was then provided to Direct Dimensions designer Dan Haga, who created an accurate and detailed 3D CAD model reflecting the actual existing geometry of the bus. Then using concept sketches and design input provided by Biodiesel University, Haga continued to layout and design the educational lab including the placement of the operational equipment that will eventually be installed in the bus when it is converted for its educational purpose.

The final work, delivered in digital format to Biodiesel University, included several photorealistic graphical renderings and a 60-second animated 3D virtual tour of the overall mobile lab design. By showcasing these materials digitally through its website and email, Biodiesel University can generate additional support for its program and mission. “The renderings and virtual tours present the concept for our mission in a very compelling manner. We’re grateful for the effort and enthusiasm that Direct Dimensions has shown for our project,” states Dan Goodman.