U of G Lab Tech Takes a Different Approach to Testing the Brain

When David Marom isn’t running tests in the lab at U of G, the pathobiology technician turns his brain to another kind of experiment — creating 3-D mazes.

“I’m making art,” he said. “I always knew if I ever did art, it would be a computer-based creation. It’s so much fun.”

Marom started creating mazes for his nephews in Israel as they were learning English. He wanted to create for them an activity book that would help with the alphabet and, for some fun, include mazes.

Art meets technology

The hobby now involves his wife and daughter, too. Marom designs the mazes: the labyrinth-like path required to make it from start to finish; the “traps” or dead ends; the colour scheme. For that, his 13-year-old daughter helps him pair different hues because Marom is colour-blind.

Earlier, Marom relied solely on PowerPoint to produce the mazes, but when a friend told him about Blender’s 3-D computer graphics software, he began to use it in tandem with the Microsoft staple.

“That’s the challenging part of it, is to use the software,” he said. The result, however, was that he was able to create mazes “one hundred times better.”

Now completing his eighth maze, Marom builds each using the same template, making them equal in size but varied in shape, colour and skill. Recently, he began pitching the mazes to local newspapers across Ontario to see whether they might print them. He plans to work on making them interactive and available online.

Anticipating the short cuts

He first tests his results on his daughter and then takes them to his students for fun, carefully observing their strategies to learn how each individual approaches the challenge.

Some people enter at the start point and some at the finish, he said. Then there is the natural direction the human eye wants to travel as communicated by the brain. That’s where Marom hones his product to try to trip people up.

“If they struggle three or four times, they will go to the finish and start from there and I anticipate that when I design the maze,” he explained. “I try to make it hard no matter what point they start at.”

Marom even tries to fool himself in the design phase and offers a few recommendations: “If you choose the wrong way and get into a trap, remember to go back to that point. Don’t go back to the beginning. It will be much longer and harder.

“Just have fun. Take your time. Don’t do it too fast and don’t take the easy way.”