Federal funding fuels project


Bringing dinosaur fossils into the digital world is one project made possible by an federal government initiative announced Friday.

Research Casting International, a company that specializes in fabricating museum exhibits, is one of 14 southern Ontario enterprises set to benefit from a partnership with Queen's University.

Last year, the Applied Research and Commercialization Initiative under the Federal Development Agency for Southern Ontario granted Queen's up to $750,000 in funding.

The initiative sought to partner university researchers with small-and medium-sized businesses.

Leeds-Greenville MP Gord Brown said Friday that 14 partnerships have been successfully negotiated.

For the president of Research Casting International, Peter May, the partnership has brought his company into the future.

"We're moving to a more high-tech company," he said, adding that the company is currently in the process of setting up a 3-D library of data from collections of dinosaur bones around the world.

While digitizing dinosaur bone models, one problem encountered was the transfer of large data files. Thanks to a research group headed by School of Computing professor David Rappaport, this won't be a problem anymore.

Rappaport said his project is analogous to the compression of music files.

"What made electronic distribution of music possible is data compression. You make the same music file a lot smaller," he said, adding that the same is true for scans of dinosaur models.

"(The aim) ... is to take those digital files of the models ... and compress them."

Rappaport said Research Casting International will be able to transfer data to museums and researchers around the world.

"It takes away the old traditional method of moulding and casting," he said.

With $47,500 from the initiative, Rappaport said he bought a new computer and aims to expand his team. He wants to hire a post-doctoral assistant, graduate student and undergraduate student. Because Research Casting International is based in Trenton, travel costs are also budgeted for.

Matt Fair, production manager for Research Casting International, said the partnership will result in many benefits.

"It allows us to cut down on storage and we also will not have mould maintenance," he said.