UC scientists mix technology, art and roleplay to show teens the earth’s power

Combining special effects, science, art and storytelling, University of Canterbury geological scientists have developed an exciting hi-tech game to help high school students understand the power of the earth.

The game, called ‘Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth’, was developed by UC volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy and geological 3D visualisation expert Dr Jonathan Davidson with help from artists, digital experts and educators. The game integrates storytelling, 3D software, video technology, holograms, comic art and geology to teach secondary school students about the inner workings of volcanoes and the role of geologists and engineers.

Students from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi in Christchurch were the first to test the game this week.

“One group jumped out of their seats celebrating when they got the right answer,” Dr Davidson says. “It was really exciting to see it all come together and see them having fun. Hopefully it inspired some of them to think about a career in science or engineering in the future.”

Dr Kennedy says the game enables the students to experience science through educated play and by becoming the stars of the game.

“The students ultimately have to work out how to ‘save the planet’ by finding and safely extracting renewable energy from a volcano,” Dr Kennedy says.

“It puts the students in the role of the geologist or engineer, saving planet earth from a potential environmental disaster.”

Dr Kennedy and Dr Davidson came up with the idea for the game while watching the 2005 disaster movie Supervolcano about a massive volcanic eruption, which used 3D imagery to show the geological processes behind the eruption.

“We thought it would be really cool to try and replicate the 3D holographic effects in the classroom, especially as a way to inspire younger kids and get them excited about geology and how it makes a difference in the world,” Dr Davidson says.

The game sees students work in teams of four to role play as scientists or engineers trying to drill into a magma chamber to extract its power. Each team member is assigned a job (geophysicist, environmental risk manager, volcanologist, or drilling engineer) and watches entertaining videos relating to their role. The team members then share their knowledge, as real scientists and engineers would, to identify such things as the location, depth and budget of the drilling. They input their answers into an online form. At the end of the game, they get to see the consequences of their proposed solution visualised in a 3D hologram. 

“Its characters are a bit silly and hopefully make the students laugh while they’re learning, but we also hope there’s some excitement,” Dr Kennedy says.

“Drilling too deep could initiate an eruption and kill everyone. But, get it right; and you can cool down the magma chamber, reduce the risk of a large eruption, make renewable energy and save the earth!”

The game was created with help from UC educational psychologist Dr Valerie Sotardi of UC’s School of Educational Studies and Leadership, teachers Ian Reeves and Georgina Barrett, artist Elizabeth Mordensky, and UC videographer Rob Stowell. The 3D visualisation used local Christchurch 3D geological software company Leapfrog to create the magma holograms.

The project received $30,000 in funding from the Unlocking Curious Minds 2017 funding round, administered by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment. UC provided in-kind support through staff time, use of equipment and facilities.

The UC scientists hope to share the game with other schools, museums and educational centres around New Zealand.

Mental Health Awareness Week Colouring Competition

Are you looking for activities for your children over the school holidays? Encourage your tamariki to get crafty in nature during MHAW and help them experience the joy and wonder of being in nature.

What to do:

  1. Download and print copies of the Mental Health Awareness Week colouring competition to give your tamariki during term 4 or the school holidays.
  2. Head outside into nature and show how you connect with it, what you see, smell and hear. Draw and colour-in what you see. 
  3. Post your entry so it is received before 5pm Friday, 26 October 2018 to: Mental Health Foundation, PO Box 10051, Dominion Rd, Auckland 1446.

Or scan and email entries with the subject line “Colouring Competition Entry”.

We need your help to get UC staff 20% off memberships at CCC Pools/Fitness Centres!

  • Do you have a current membership to CCC pools/fitness centres?
  • Do they know you are UC staff?

Once we have 10 UC staff signed up, we all get 20% off our memberships! All you need to do is email Lou Murray (CCC Rec & Sport Membership Administrator) with your CCC membership number so they can flag you as UC staff. There are already 8 of us, so we just need 2 more people to get the discount. If you are considering becoming a member…read on!

With a multi-membership you can use the pools (including the Swimsmart adult lessons), the fitness centres and the group fitness classes at any of the four CCC Recreation & Sport Centres (Jellie Park, Graham Condon, Pioneer and Taiora QEII). You also receive a free personal programme, which includes a tailored plan to meet your goals, and a free follow-up appointment every 12 weeks.

I am also a member of UC RecCentre and LOVE IT, but find it’s great having a CCC membership as well, because I can use their spas/sauna rooms, pools, and saves money when I want to take the kids swimming during the school holidays. It’s a good option in the weekends because I have a CCC centre close to home. They have flexible payment options too.

Lou has already offered to provide staff some free passes, so you can try before you buy. They are exhibiting at The Fitness Expo on Saturday 6 October at Horncastle Arena where they will have giveaways.

Click here for info about membership options and prices.

 

 

UC’s Edible Campus

Missed our Edible Campus walking tour? Here’s the link to our Edible Campus Map, so you can take yourself foraging on campus whenever you like!

The fruit, nuts and berries you see on campus are all free for you to forage as you wish. However, we ask you do some research if you’re unsure – some edibles may look ready before they are actually ripe for picking!

You can always be in touch with the Sustainability Office if you have any questions about foraging on campus.

The Sustainability Office has a long-term plan to see more food grown on campus, complementing the plantings and ecological restoration work we have been supporting. As issues of food accessibility and affordability become better understood, we are committed to proving an edible landscape for our UC community. The idea of an edible campus and a food forest is embedded in UC’s landscape master plan.

We already have two community gardens on campus – those on the tour visited Okeover Community Garden with us, and we also have an allotment style community garden based at Dovedale.

Interested in volunteering in our community garden? All volunteers are welcome to take home fresh produce in return for their time. See more about volunteering with us here.

Found an edible on campus that isn’t on this map? Please let us know! We’re in the process of updating and refreshing our Edible Campus maps and guides.

Happy foraging UC!

This message was bought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Stay connected, and be in touch with us! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram, or check out our website for more information about what we do, and upcoming events.

Got a question or want to know more? Email us at sustainability@canterbury.ac.nz