• Harvey Thorleifson, Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • Carrie Jennings, Vice Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • David Bush, Technical Program Chair
    University of West Georgia
  • Jim Miller, Field Trip Chair
    University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Curtis M. Hudak, Sponsorship Chair
    Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC


Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 12:15 PM


DORDEVIC, Mladen M.1, WILD, Steven C.2 and DE PAOR, Declan G.2, (1)Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, (2)Physics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529,

Many educators have created Virtual Field Trips (CFTs) using Google Earth. In most VFTs students are passively flown to field locations marked with pop-up balloons containing text, images, and links to the Internet. We here demonstrate use of the Google Earth Application Program Interface (GE API) to create a new type of engaging learning experience based on active student participation. Our aim is to have students decide where to explore on the Google Earth terrain in order to complete their instructor’s assignment. Using a COLLADA model of a field vehicle, students drive themselves across the Google Earth terrain, stopping to study the landscape, collect rocks, and collaborate with other students on the construction of a geological map.

Working in groups of four, students represent themselves on the Google Earth surface by selecting an avatar. One of the group drives to each field stop in a model vehicle using game-like controls. When they arrive at a field stop and get out of their field vehicle, students can control their own avatars’ movements independently and can communicate with one another by text message. They are geo-fenced and receive automatic messages if they wander off target. Individual movements are logged and stored in a MySQL database for later analysis. Students collaborate on mapping decisions and submit a report to their instructor through a Javascript interface.

For simplicity we chose the island of Puerto Rico as our test field mapping area. There is little outcrop and so the main sampling method is drilling. Students have a limited drilling budget and must map out four lithologies by examining the terrain between sample sites. The lithologies have societal importance for building resources and eco-tourism. Other mapping exercises are being created for the Vredefort impact structure, South Africa, the ice and fire of Iceland, the Hawaiian chain of islands, atolls, and seamounts, and extra-terrestrial locations on the Moon, Venus, and Mars.

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