by Michael H. Imwalle
I first began working with Ronald “Chip” Fenenga and students from the Environmental and Spatial Technologies at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in the spring of 2003 during a project to record the Mission Santa Inés Water System. The EAST initiative provides technology training to students through student-driven service projects, including hardware and software for 3D modeling, GPS/GIS mapping, and Computer Aided Design (CAD). The adoption and inclusion of 3D imaging technology seemed the next best step to him and his administration to keep SYVUHS students at the forefront of spatial technologies.
In August 2012 SYVUHS partnered with CyArk to become the first and only high school in the world to use LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology. Using CyArk software, the data gathered by the Faro Focus 3D laser scanner is converted into a photo-like representation of what is scanned. The scanner cost $65,000 and the software program cost $8,000. Grant funding for the scanner and software were secured from ROP, as well as supplemental assistance from CyArk and their industry partners. To see CyArk’s blog post about the project click here.
The scanner, smaller than an Xbox video game console and mounted on a tripod, can perform an almost 360 degree scan of an area, accurate to within one millimeter, in about 6 minutes. It can scan 1.1 million points of data per second. After a crash course in operating the scanner and software, Chip Fenenga unleashed the new technology on his students last September.
I met Chip and some of the 32 EAST students working on the project at the Santa Inés Mission Mills on April 25th to begin scanning the grist mill, fulling mill, and reservoirs. Students began taking multiple scans of the exteriors and interiors of the various features while carefully supplementing all of the scanned areas with photography. Of particular interest to me was the operation of the two mills and how water was conveyed and stored for use by each of the two facilities.
In order to illustrate this, I asked Chip and his students if they could scan the lower level of the grist mill. When Chip responded by saying that he thought it would be too dark to capture the photographic data, two of the students immediately volunteered to run home and get some lights. Within twenty minutes the young ladies returned with a generator and gangs of lights for illuminating the space. The scanning of the lower level produced new information about the exact location of the horizontal wheel, the size and position of the penstock for driving the water-powered wheel, and how the mill was drained into adjacent Alamo Pintado Creek.
After collecting the data at the site it is transferred to computers where software is used to render 3-dimensional models of the buildings and features scanned in the field. A video produced by the students showing animated fly-throughs of the site can be seen here. For a feature story about the SYVUHS EAST class scanning the mission building on KEYT click here. To read a Santa Ynez Valley News article about the project, click here.
Thank you to Chip Fenenga and the 32 EAST students that participated in this project. Thank you to Superintendent Paul Turnbull, Principal Mark Swanitz, and the entire Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District for this incredibly valuable resource. We look forward to working with you on many successful preservation projects in the future.
Mike Imwalle is the archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.