Four teachers hovered around a table-length touch screen at YV-Tech Wednesday morning as Arthur Tang took them on a visual tour of a 3D human cadaver projected across it.
As Tang, of Silicon Valley’s Anatomage, dragged his finger along a slider bar on the screen, the image transitioned from a body to its internal structures.
Finely detailed images of the corpse quickly guided the onlooking instructors through deep tissue muscles, skeletal, urinary and nervous systems before eventually ending on an image of the brain and spinal cord. Zooming in, the body parts could be seen in crisp detail up to 0.2 mm.
Tang was helping the instructors understand how to navigate YV-Tech’s new teaching tool. This fall, some YV-Tech students will begin learning with this cutting edge technology, after the Yakima School District became the second district in the state to acquire the tool this summer.
Tang later virtually dissected the cadaver, allowing the group to see the intestines. He then focused on the spine, virtually spinning it to look at each side. Then, he turned on annotations, pulling up labels identifying each piece of the spine.
“Oh gosh,” YV-Tech nursing instructor Beth Lovelace responded in excitement.
The 3D cadaver they were viewing was a digital archive of a body donated to science. It’s one of four human bodies available for dissection and study in the current edition of the Anatomage Table — “the world’s first and only virtual dissection table,” according to the company’s website. Across the four cadavers, the table offers over 2,000 segmented and annotated 3D body structures for student and teacher visualization and reference. Animal corpses from dogs to mice and pigs also are incorporated into the program.
Power Point presentations, quizzes and virtual dissections can be made based on the accurate human bodies.
Tang of Anatomage said the table ideally supplements traditional medical labs, where medical students can touch and dissect bodies to learn the tactile sensation of working with a real cadaver. But he said that real cadaver labs are costly to maintain and sometimes come with ethical questions and complications.
YV-Tech is using the digital platform alone, giving students the advantage of a digital cadaver that is “infinitely dissectible,” Tang said. It also helps with visual distinction since the cadaver is not discolored by formaldehyde for preservation purposes.
At YV-Tech, the roughly $72,000 technology will be paid for by the district with career technical education and grant funds over three years, according to technical school principal Dennis Matson. More than 300 students across six of YV-Tech’s programs — including nursing, dental assisting and physical therapy — are expected to use the table each year. Chehalis School District in Lewis County is the only other district in the state to have the technology, he added.
Josh Petersen, CTE and sports medicine instructor at W.F. West High School in Chehalis, has been teaching and using the table for the past year. He said students are “blown away” by the technology.
“Nowadays, it’s such a technology-based society that we live in, so I tell them it’s a giant tablet and it kind of piques their interest rather than, ‘Read this 1,200 page textbook in anatomy,’ ” Petersen said, adding that CTE and STEM education have already been proven to propel student success.
Chehalis has a middle school and high school. Petersen said he was excited to see a larger district like Yakima acquire the CTE tool, opening up learning
opportunities to more students.
The Yakima School District serves roughly 16,000 students and has five high schools, including YV-Tech and an online high school option.
“I think it’s going to provide a wealth of knowledge,” Petersen said. “A tool like this — it’s going to do wonders for those individuals that (become) involved in the medical field.”
Lovelace of YV-Tech said she had never seen the table before Wednesday’s tutorial. Already, she was mentally cataloging ways it could be used in the school’s nursing program.
“There are limitless possibilities to use this in our classrooms,” she said, adding that she was most excited about the table’s detailed breakdown of the organ systems, and the possibility of exploring real medical procedures.
“You can actually look at real MRI scans, CAT scans, and that sort of thing, so it has a lot of applications,” Lovelace said. “That’s why everything that (Tang shows us) is kind of blowing my mind. Like, ‘There’s more. Oh yeah, we can do that too. There’s more.’”
Teachers at YV-Tech will begin planning curriculum for courses using the table over the summer, and by fall, students will be able to start using the digital cadavers for learning.
Josh Holliday, the school’s physical therapy technician instructor, said he’s excited to be able to give students a more accurate understanding of the human body through modern technology.
“When I do a lot of my skeletal stuff, the skeletons around the room, I just put numbers on them and then the kid has to go around and write down what they think it is,” he said. “But here, being able to take something and move it around and zoom in and zoom out — it’s adapting to the student of today … rather than saying, ‘Hey, look at this picture (of a human body) and tell me what this bone is.”