Geology Explorer: Virtual Geologic
Mapping and Interpretation
Bernhardt Saini-Eidukata, Donald P. Schwerta, Brian M. Slatorb, Otto Borchertb, Robert Cosmanob, Guy
Hokansonb , Carson Rittela, and Shannon Tomacc
of Geosciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
bDept. of Computer Science, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
cDept. of Art and Design, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Moorhead, MN
Geology Explorer research supported by NSF grants
DUE-9752548, EAR-9809761, DUE-9981094, ITR0086142 and EPSCoR 99-77788, and and FIPSE
The World Wide Web Instructional Committee at NDSU is developing a range of Virtual Environments for
Education. One of these, the Geology Explorer, is a synthetic, internet-based, educational environment
(“Planet Oit”) where students carry out geologic investigations as a field geologist would. The newest
module provides students an authentic, spatially oriented, geologic mapping experience. Planet Oit can be
visited on the internet at
Educational Role-playing Games: “Learning-by-doing” Experiences
What is “Planet Oit” ?
The Technical Approach
• Similar to Earth, but
opposite the Sun
~50 places: desert, cutbank,
cave, etc.
•Students “land” on Oit
to undertake exploration
The Virtual Environment promotes:
~100 different rocks and
•Authentic Geoscience
goals - e.g., to locate,
identify, and report
valuable minerals; to
create and interpret a
geologic map
The Virtual Environment is:
Spatial Navigation Using Maps and Rendered 3-D Scenes
~15 field instruments: rock
pick, acid bottle, magnet, etc.
Software Tutors: intelligent
agents for equipment,
exploration, and deduction
•Practical planning and decision making
•Problem solving
•Investigation of real-world content
• Understanding the scientific method
• Networked, internet based, client-server simulation
• UNIX-based MOO (Multi-User Dungeon, Object Oriented)
• Java-based clients
•Mature thinking
How Do Players Create a Geologic Map?
Tutorials for Learning the Concepts of
Geologic Mapping are Available in the
Base Maps for Adding Data and Creating a Geologic Map
“aerial photo”
topographic map
A Player (appearance
can be changed)
Players Identify Outcrops Using Tests
Outcrop Locations are Shown with Markers
You Are
Markers Coded to
Rock Type Show
Location of
Results of
Tests (in this
case, acid
Rejects the notion of standardized multiple
choice tests
Pre-game narrative-based survey
• short problem-solving stories
• students record their impressions and questions
Similar post-game survey with different but
analogous scenarios
Surveys analyzed for improvement in problemsolving
Player Creates a Geologic Map Based on Outcrop Locations,
and Can Get Immediate Feedback
Player Uses Pen
to Draw Map
Assessment and
The Future
More advanced concepts such as thermobarometry can
be learned by the student carrying out virtual
microprobe analyses of minerals in the metamorphic
rocks. For example the student will be able to obtain
virtual microchemical analyses of garnet-biotite pairs,
and perhaps together with hornblende analyses be able
to estimate maximum P-T conditions to which these
rocks were subjected.
Special thanks are due to John Bauer for Java graphical
client development, to Rebecca Potter for graphical
development, to Bryan Bandli, Julia Karst-Gray, Ned Kruger,
Joy Turnbull, Dean Vestal, Mindy Sue Vogel, Jeff Walsh, and
Jane Willenbring for geology content development and
assessment, to Mark Tinguely, who saved our world when its
universe imploded, and to Dave Schmidt for the name:
Planet Oit.
Paul Juell
Donald Schwert
Phillip McClean
Brian Slator
Bernhardt Saini-Eidukat Alan White
Jeff Clark
Lisa Daniels

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