Piece by piece, the world is becoming a little smaller in Mesa — about 100,000 times smaller. But, in this case, small is actually quite big — as in 40 stories tall, and with astonishing detail.
Engineer and inventor Bryan Beaulieu plans to build a globe that stands more than 40 stories high, with millions of pieces touched by children from around the world.
In a building on the west side of Mesa’s East Valley Institute of Technology, Beaulieu has set up shop for The Great Globe Project. He’s brought in a machine that prints in 3-D, a laser cutter that can slice through hard plastic and more.
Beaulieu’s vision is a 420-foot wide globe crafted together with 10.5 million 4-inch-triangualar tiles. Each tile will be painted by school-age children to show a roughly 6-mile area of the world. Anything on the planet that’s about 30-feet high will be visible on the globe.
Then everything will be assembled onto a site projected to be about 50 miles south of Phoenix -- the most likely location would be in the relative proximity of the City of Maricopa, Arizona City and Casa Grande.
Beaulieu has secured an agreement to build on an American Indian reservation. Visitors could ride an “observation deck,” or ring around the globe, to see various parts of the world. A pavilion below the massive globe could be used for concerts and lectures. Beaulieu even has plans for a “village” where people can stay for several days.
Though it sounds massive, Beaulieu said, “This is a simple project, simpler than bridges. … This is a really straight forward project.”
In his fabrication shop, Beaulieu and EVIT students are putting together the first of the 3D tiles that will be used on the globe and assembling kits for students to complete the tiles. The kits will be sent out to libraries and schools worldwide that sign up to participate.
It will start here in Arizona – likely in Mesa.
Within the kits are the 700 parts needed to make one panel that will be placed on the globe. On the panel are 81 4-inch tiles.
When students receive a tile, that’s when the research begins. The tile will be printed with an image of anything on the surface of that part of the world. Some of them may be dated. One he showed the Tribune was taken of the former General Motors Proving Grounds, complete with its 5-mile circular track.
Students must discover what’s there now and what the area may look like on a set day of year. In the case of the Mesa tile, students would find out from talking to people in the area or gathering recent photos that part of the track doesn’t exist anymore since the community development Eastmark is underway on the site.
“The whole idea is to get kids connected. Children from around the earth are building a model of their planet,” he said.
Students then paint the tile appropriately and the completed panels are sent back to Beaulieu at EVIT.
The work fits directly with the nationwide push for STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math, said EVIT superintendent Sally Downey. So it benefits not only the students working on the tiles, but the EVIT students creating the kits and other pieces for The Great Globe Project.
“This is STEM on steroids,” she said. “Everybody is chasing their tail to implement STEM and my God, look at what we’re doing. We are building the world.”
“It’s people like Bryan who will teach the kids the next generation of technology,” assistant superintendent David Schapira said. “He’s providing them with a set of skills no other high school students are getting.”
Beaulieu expects the project to cost about $400 million. That's hardly a drop in the bucket, but Beaulieu is working on a an idea that would include the students working on the tiles to try and fundraise $40 per tile. With 10.5 million tiles needed, that would generate the money for construction.
“Suppose if the children of earth actually raise the money to build their globe?” he said.
This isn’t the first time Beaulieu has created a massive globe. The first was 20 years ago in Minnesota. The process was the same – with students creating the 11,000 tiles for the 42-foot-wide globe. Beaulieu put it on display in Minnesota, Mexico and the Washington Mall and planned to take it to Europe before it was destroyed by a tornado.
He said there wasn’t a plan for anything, “more grandiose,” but then technology caught up with the idea to make it bigger.
“This is really just an exercise to get students interested in studying a part of the planet they’ve never known before,” he said.
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