Learning to integrate geophysics into engineering projects using a comprehensive set of interactive, online, scenario-based resources
This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.
In this four part interactive learning scenario, students work on the geophysical aspects of a project aimed at determining whether groundwater has been contaminated downstream of a mine tailings impoundment dam. Students make decisions about the relationships between geotechnical goals and geophysical properties, they choose and plan appropriate surveys, corresponding geophysical information is interpreted, and then results are incorporated into geotechnical decisions.
All necessary real and simulated information is provided online using interactive figures, text and quiz-like activities to help students construct the understanding necessary for making well informed decisions. Higher level thinking (such as making judgments about design or cost-benefit options) is facilitated using "action mazes", which are interactive workflow or decision-making activities.
- Practice integrating geophysical concepts into this full scale geotechnical project.
- Set up the geophysical aspects of each task, including establishing clear objectives and identifying how geophysics will contribute to the given geotechnical project.
- Determine which physical properties will affect the geophysical work, and which are most relevant to the four specific goals of the geotechnical project.
- Make decisions about which geophysical techniques are most likely to be useful, and design the surveys.
- Analyze corresponding geophysical data sets.
- Use results to help resolve all four aspects of the project.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Exercise are found via the following URLs. Each page gives the option of going straight to the resource or downloading a zip file with all it's components.
- Mine tailings 1 – setup: See http://urls.bccampus.ca/xr. This module provides an initial experience in setting up the application of applied geophysics for a typical geoscience task. The key component is an action maze decision-making activity, supported with readings and quiz-style activities with built-in checking of responses.
- Mine tailings 2 - physical properties: See http://urls.bccampus.ca/q9. Students participate in considering physical properties that will affect geophysical work at the project site. The key component is an action maze decision-making activity, supported with readings and quiz-style activities with built-in checking of responses.
- Mine tailings 3 - estimate calcine volume: See http://urls.bccampus.ca/q8. Students learn as much as possible from the geophysical data about ONE of the tasks at this project site. The key component is an action maze decision-making activity, supported with readings and quiz-style activities with built-in checking of responses.
- Mine tailings 4 - synthesis of all data: See http://urls.bccampus.ca/sn. Students practice using several geophysical information types to address four geotechnical problems, rather than learning about details of an individual method. This is the way most engineers and geoscientists will use geophysical information in their professions.
Teaching Notes and Tips
Another reason to consider running these in a lab setting is that "decision making" is more complicated than simply "knowing" some facts, figures, or techniques. For example, we have found that students take considerable time building confidence and skills at relating geophysical work to geotechnical problems via considerations of physical properties. They may quickly learn how geophysical techniques work and how to interpret data, but transferring these basics to real settings, and using physical properties as the link, seems to be more challenging.
Also, students see photographs and ask "is this a real place?" The answer is that the problem was inspired by a real situation but data and maps etc. have been optimized for educational purposes rather than to reflect reality.
Both optimal and sub-optimal decisions elicit feedback to the student so that they can "fail safely", thus learning from all decisions they make. To support external assessment, the third part includes the option for NOT including solutions to exercises so work can be handed in for grading (using solutions provided), and the fourth part is treated as a project with a suggested grading scheme, rather than as a self-assessed activity.
References and Resources
However, other resources in the complete AGLO package may also be of interest. For example:
- See http://urls.bccampus.ca/ge for a descriptive listing of all resources.
- An interactive, FLASH-based introduction to a general seven-step framework for applying geophysics to geotechnical or exploration tasks is at http://urls.bccampus.ca/qy (or http://urls.bccampus.ca/o8 for a non-flash, HTML version).