Northeastern Section - 36th Annual Meeting (March 12-14, 2001)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM-12:00 PM


BENIMOFF, Alan I. and ALEXANDER, Jane L., Department of Engineering Science and Physics, The College of Staten Island/CUNY, Staten Island, NY 10314,

Generally, the map part of the Physical Geology course presents the greatest challenge to students enrolled in a non-major liberal arts Geology Course and this topic is also considered by many to be boring. Recently the computers in our geology laboratory were upgraded to Intel Pentium III CPU's, presenting an excellent opportunity to explore the use of mapping software as a supplement to traditional paper maps. Selected laboratory sections at the College of Staten Island were recently exposed to commercially available 2D/3D topographic map software. Our objective was to enhance the experience for these liberal arts students, by allowing them to explore the 3-dimensional nature of the topography with the traditional 2-dimensional map superimposed. In an effort to make the laboratory more relevant we focused on Staten Island's diverse topography. Student activities included locating their residence on the map and drawing a topographic profile through the surrounding area. The traditional pencil and paper exercises were used as an introduction to the laboratory exercise and the electronic 2D/3D maps on CD-ROM were used as a follow up to allow the students to compare the 2-dimensional map with the 3-dimensional projection, which can be optimized by rotation and pitching. The students were highly motivated by the digital map exercises, which appeared to enhance their understanding of how contour lines represent 3-dimensional topography. This recent introduction appears to have been successful, given the positive informal feedback from the students who have used the software. In future, its use will be expanded into other areas of the Geology curriculum, for example to assist students in Environmental Geology measuring the Fresh Kills Landfill site. The success of our use of this software will be judged both by direct student feedback, and by monitoring the grades of students in classes where it has been used.