Teach the Earth > Online Games > Workshop 08 > James Myers

James Myers

Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming

What is your experience with on-line games or environments?

Create number of multimedia materials for class, construction of many Web resources for teaching, currently developing online simulations for earth and energy courses

What do you hope to learn from the workshop experience?

How to ensure interface usability, ways of creating code such that it is modular and can share data and information, best practices for storyboarding simulations, how to create persistent data structures either on server or host machine to store game/simulation state for different users, how to design usability and interface testing protocols and programs, mechanisms for disseminating and promoting final products for adaption by other instructors.

What specific aspects of on-line games and environments in geoscience education are you interested in discussing with other workshop participants?

I am currently working on converting a series of mineral and energy case studies to computer simulations. The case studies involve mineral prospecting, exploration drilling, borehole logging and hydrologic assessment. Resources investigated include gold, copper, uranium, coal, hydrocarbons and iron, but could be extend to any number of Earth and energy resources. Although the original case studies are set in particular countries, the simulations will simply support this later lab work not include it. Many of these activities use similar techniques: site location, sample collection, drilling, coring, logging, budget calculation, etc.

The developing plan is to create standalone objects for each of these tasks. By standardize data sharing, individual modules can be grouped to create geologic toolkits for different simulations. The desired goal is also to build a geology module that will allow moderately computer savvy individuals to customize or create new simulations simply by building new geologic models. They would simply call the tools necessary for accomplishing the assigned task(s) from our catalog. These case studies are aimed at student populations in introductory (e.g. physical geology) or integrated science courses (e.g. global sustainability) so the geologic models used will be constructed and designed to emphasize salient geologic, scientific and economic factors, not the complexity and uncertainty of real geologic situations. I do, however, envision them as being of some utility in upper division geology courses for majors.

I. Hydrocarbon Exploration Exercise

In this lab, each group of students represents an oil company with an exploration budget and four hydrocarbon prospects to evaluate. For each prospect, they recieve a geologic map and a incomplete cross-section. Students must design a drilling program for each prospect that might contain a trap. Students will locate the wells they want to drill, determine the depth and pick the types of logs to run on the borehole. The figure below shows one of the maps and cross-sections the Last Chance Oil Company recieves.

One of LCOC's four petroleum prospects.
The Last Chance Oil Company has to evaluate four prospects using drilling and logging. This is one of the maps & cross-section they get. Details

Based on where the students tell me they want to drill, I will cut out the litho log and other logs they want to the depth they specify. The students use these to find the OWC, OGC and GWC, identify the types reservoirs and caps and determine the types of fluids in their traps.

Logs for Sundowner prospect
After telling me or the TA where they want to drill, the depth and types of logs to run, we find the well closet to their location and cut it out for them. Details

Problem: With four groups in a lab, we spend all of our time simply cutting out the logs. There isn't a lot of time to talk to the students about why they made the decisions they did, how to interpret the logs, the importance of the structure, etc. In addition, instructors at community colleges who don't have TAs cannot use these case studies. Thus, I want to convert them to computer simulations.

II. Hydrocarbon Prospect Economic Evaluation Exercise

In the second week of the case study, students do an economic evaluation of the two prospects they found had hydrocarbons. They must estimate the volume of hydrocarbons and their value based on the fluids characteristics, e.g. heavy vs. light, sweet vs. sour, etc. They must also devise a production plan for the field. Based on the projected production cost vs oil/gas value, they make a recommendation as whether or not to proceed with development. To ensure students have the correct geologic model for this part of the case study, they are given maps and cross-sections showing the hydrocarbon distribution (see image below).

Sundowner Hydrocarbon Fluids
Students recieve this map of the hydrocarbon fluid distribution in the Sundowner dome for their economic assesment of the prospect. Details


To view the background material provide for the two components of this case study go to the class website (Energy: A Geological Perspective). Using the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the page go to the Lab Schedule and then to the Saudi Arabia labs.

Case Study Catalog

We have created a catalog of cases studies set in different international contexts and focused on different resources.

Earth & Mineral Resources
  • South Africa & gold: mineral prospecting, evaulation drilling
  • Peru & copper: mine dewatering; ore processing & water quality
  • Africa, Canada & diamonds: mineral exploration, mine planning
  • Brazil, Japan & iron: magnetic surveying, grade heterogeneity
  • Brazil, Japan & aluminum: exploration, open-pit mine surface hydrology


  • Nigeria & petroleum: exploration drilling - surface geology, economic evaluation
  • Saudi Arabia & petroleum: exploration - structural contour maps; production planning
  • Iran & nuclear power: planning a uranium mine; selecting a reactor design
  • Brazil, the U.S. and biofuels: land use & impact, enery return vs. energy investment

James Myers --Discussion  

Hi Jim-
So this is very nice :). I'm very interested in the pedagogy of setting this up as a game. So, you have a goal (find oil) and a reward (good grade). Is the class set up as a game where they compete or try to keep the company going? What do you think the game like task (find oil) does in terms of motivation? focusing learning? Thoughts on how/why this works in the classroom? Thoughts on why the simulation is important beyond a data management tool? Cathy


Share edittextuser=3 post_id=2426 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=822

Hey Jim,
I love this. I'm sure you have already considered this but I think this lends itself to a 3d data rich object that could be interrogated. I could even see different teams working simultaneously (even at cross purposes) to solve this structure.


Share edittextuser=1737 post_id=2447 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=822

Hi Jim ----

We do a version of a oil game in class on paper. I think you are right, these find-the-resource games are a good application of the gaming technique.

At Fairbanks, where there was an interesting in ore deposits, we did another paper exercise similar to your. Again, nice to see how to get these into a gaming environment.

Cheers, Sam


Share edittextuser=1730 post_id=2455 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=822

The companies exist for only two lab sessions. The first two labs are followed by a lab on the social ramifications of resource exploitation in some impacted nation. (I'm developing these with the Director of International Studies at UW.) In the next lab, they start a new case study, e.g. coal, uranium. If the groups aren't working well, I shuffle the students around. Thus in this format there isn't much sense in trying to making keeping the companies going a goal. Students give oral and written reports on their exploration and assessment programs. The simulations really seem to bring together all the geology, economics and sociology we are discussing in lecture. Focus groups indicate the students really like the case studies.


Share edittextuser=432 post_id=2461 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=822

I've thought about 3D, but think its beyond my resources. A simulation that extends the maps and cross-sections would be valuable. Jimm


Share edittextuser=432 post_id=2462 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=822

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