Welcome to Planet Oit!
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Planet Oit is an online computer game in which the students play interplanetary explorers as a means to teach the concepts and principles of physical geology. Planet Oit has been designed as a coherent geophysical space where geological regions (desert, mountains, plains) contain plausible phenomenon (mesa, playa, cave) which are populated with plausible objects (outcrops, boulders, veins), of plausible types. Planet Oit currently contains over 50 locations, nearly 100 rock and mineral types, 200 outcrops, veins, boulders and so forth, and over 40 instrument and tool types. The students' task is to obtain the appropriate equipment and perform tests on the samples they find before they can report their findings back to Earth. User registration is required but at no cost.
This game teaches students how to find minerals given rocks and outcrops in a plausible (but not real) geologic setting. It will motivate most students to play it without outside encouragement for hours as the world is fun to explore and the scoring system encourages them to keep moving. Finally, it emphasizes the use of different kinds of tests for mineral identification.
Context for Use
This is a game that you can show your students in class or lab, then let them play on their own for fun.
Players will need a fast Internet connection and a Java-enabled browser. They will have to register on the NDSU web site, but use of the applet is free. Geology Explorer: Planet Oit Information (more info)
Teaching Notes and Tips
The only major flaws of the game are that the graphical interface is slow and that it uses the same graphic for the rock or mineral in the virtual "field" that it does in the library, so students can just compare the two and skip the tests. One way around both of these problems is to get them to learn to use the text-based interface (not difficult) and persuade them to use that.
None included. The instructor may want to introduce students to rock and mineral identification using this game, then see how they do when presented with real rocks. The big advantage of the game is that it shows the rocks in their geologic context (tufa within a caldera, for example).
References and Resources
A mineral-identification handbook is useful, but one is provided within the game.