Teaching Geology : From Field to 3D Modelling by Diverting Modelling Software

Lise Gransac, UniLaSalle
Julien Duquennoy, UniLaSalle

The Geology Department of UniLaSalle has set up a Research Initiation Memory aiming to raise the awareness of students in the 3rd year of engineering studies in the fields of research. During this Memory students work in pairs for a full school year in order to answer a scientific problem.

3D visualization only based on 2D illustrations is not a simple exercise for human brain. Teaching geology and the geometries of the geological layers is therefore, quite complicated. In this context, the project is to make the students work on 3D modelling of a complex geological structure so that they have to learn and fundamentally understand the tectonic and sedimentary subtleties of a geological area, so much so that they can implement an educational tool out of it.

The chosen pedagogical approach is to make the students work directly on the field, in contact with the geology, then analyze the collected data and finally lead to a numerical modelling of the studied area.

Moreover, the software used for the modelling is in no way related to geology since the 3DEXPERIENCE© Platform developed by Dassault Systèmes is basically a 3D drawing tool and rather used in the manufacturing industry.

The results of this project showed that on the one hand the students really tried to understand the area in detail and their geology skills jumped forward. They forged their own scientific opinions and gained real autonomy and critical sense. But on the other hand the methodology used for the modelling was really tedious and required long hours of work. It was necessary to start again several times and adapt the methodology as the modelling progressed. Finally some issues remain difficult to explain and correct. An animation from stage 1 to stage 4 of the thrusting anticline has been produced but is not good enough to be used as an educational tool.

The same work, on the same geological area is currently in progress with two other pairs of students. This time they are working with geological modelling software. GéoModeller© (Intrepid Geophysics) is an implicit modelling software while Surpac© (Dassault Systèmes - Géovia) is a semi-automated modelling software. So far, the students using GéoModeller© are less focused on understanding the geological intricacies of their study area than on understanding the inner workings of the modelling software. After all, are geological modelling software the best educational tools to learn Geology?


Teaching Structural Geology and Tectonics