Shortcut Navigation:

Using 3D Printing to Reconstruct Dinosaurs, Students Learn to Think Like Paleontologists

Education posts

Using the latest 3D printing technology and dinosaur fossils from the Museum’s paleontology collections, a group of high school students recently spent two weeks producing models of dinosaurs—and learning to think like paleontologists—as part of the innovative program “Capturing Dinosaurs: Reconstructing Extinct Species Through Digital Fabrication.”


Developed by Museum educators and scientists, the program introduced students to comparative fossil anatomy through digital 3D capturing, modeling and printing technologies. Asked to replicate a dinosaur but not told its species, students worked with a collection of Allosaurus fossils from the Museum’s Paleontology collection to scan, digitally model, and print the bones using 3D printers. They were then challenged to identify the dinosaur and construct a skeletal model from the printed bones. For reference, the class explored the Museum's fourth-floor dinosaur halls, studying mounted specimens of Tyrannosaurus rex and Apatosaurus as they tried to determine their dinosaur’s species.

To help students better understand how paleontologists work, Museum scientists and staff led behind-the-scenes tours of the Museum’s Big Bone Room, Fossil Preparation Lab, and the Division of Paleontology’s Fossil Reptiles Collections. Students also got a first-hand look at the scanning technologies used by Museum researchers, including a computed tomography (CT) scanner and a scanning electron microscope.

The "Capturing Dinosaurs" program was developed by the Museum's Education department with the Richard Gilder Graduate School and the Division of Paleontology, in collaboration with the educational services cooperative HTINK and the 3D printer manufacturer, MakerBot. 

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

Open daily from 10 am - 5:45 pm
except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
Maps and Directions

Enlighten Your Inbox

Stay informed about Museum news and research, events, and more!