Raul Acero | Integrating Sculpture and 3D Design

Case Study in Brief

Courses: ART-145: Introduction to Sculpture (Fall 2018) and ART-347 Intermediate Sculpture (Spring 2019)

Instructor: Raul Acero

Semester: Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

Number of Students: 15 per class

Makerspace Consult: Iyan Sandri


This year, Instructional Technology Services introduced the university's first Makerspace; a collaborative space for students to explore Virtual Reality, 3D modeling, and 3D printing. Mr. Acero was one of the first faculty to leverage the center. In Fall 2018, students in Sculpture 201 had an opportunity to explore 3D scanning, virtual manipulation, and 3D printing. Students began projects by creating objects with modeling clay and imported them into modeling programs using a 3D scanner. From there, students could edit the shapes virtually through the Oculus Rift, in a program called Oculus Medium. Transporting students into this virtual workspace gave them exposure to a new dimension of editing. Students could also manipulate their sculptures using the online 3D modeling program, TinkerCAD, or a traditional program such as Maya. After completing their edits, students then 3D printed their work using one of the university's 3D printers. Typical designs took between 3-7 hours!

In Spring 2019, Mr. Acero expanded on his goals by inviting students to create a virtual art installment. Students voted on a location on campus and then designed a sculpture to fit that space. To accomplish this, Mr. Acero partnered with faculty in Spatial Studies. Drones flew over campus and collected data to map the chosen locations. This map was converted into a 3D virtual space where the students then, using similar techniques from the past semester, placed their pieces at the site. Once placed and scaled, the students took screenshots and 3D printed their sculptures in the site. These prints took up to 12 hours to print. This exercise helped give students a sense of how a virtual environment could inform their designs.


  • Oculus Rift
  • Oculus Medium, TinkerCAD, or Maya
  • 3D scanner (Matter to Form)
  • 3D printer (Ultimaker and Makerbot 2.0)
  • Drone

Target Skills

  • Critical Thinking: Students manipulated designs based on a new approach to creating sculptures.
  • Engagement: Students used virtual environments, 3D scanning, and 3D printing to map and plan artist installments.
  • Spatial Awareness: Students used drones and virtual environment to become aware of how artist installations related to space.
  • Critical Assessment: Students discussed the pros and cons of a new prototyping technology. Learning how to evaluate possible tools to use when creating.

Instructor’s Perspective

"As a sculptor and University Professor I see great value in helping students use a broad range of materials and techniques. The use of current technology to plan and create sculpture both large and small scale presents an exciting opportunity for student artists. Using virtual environments and 3D software allows students to visualize space and the placement of sculptural art in new ways. In the sculpture classes this opens up the possibility of traditional materials and techniques merging with technology to inform the student voice and knowledge about art in contemporary society."

Recipe for Success

  1. Engage your students with projects they want to create.
  2. Offer students different options for editing their designs.
  3. Connect with post-college projects.