During the summer of 2011, the vSURF project team completed the initial 3-D immersive virtual environment of the Homestake Mine (referred to by vSURF as the "Core" ) The "Core" was developed first because it functions as the base of future immersive simulations and educational games in various fields of science including geology, biology, physics and chemistry. The underground facility may not change substantially over the years but the nature of the simulations and educational games we can do will and can easily be overlaid on the existing "Core". For example, within the Core, there are training rooms, a toolbox/backpack, the ability for students to record information in a journal and track this information. Most, if not all of these features, can be incorporated into a variety of different immersive simulations and eventually, multi-player educational games. As of July, 2011 vSURF began the development of its first immersive simulation based on the use of the cosmic ray detector.
Cosmic rays are energetic charged particles (mostly simple protons or hydrogen nuclei) originating from outer space. When these particles enter the Earth's atmosphere they usually produce secondary particles that penetrate to and through the Earth's surface (animation). On the surface of the Earth these secondary particles can impact the quality of some scientific research. Since the number of secondary rays can be reduced by going underground, several sensitive experiments in particle physics and astrophysics will be conducted in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) as deep as 4850 ft below the surface. Still the underground environment is not completely devoid of "interference" from these secondary rays and normal background radiation from the rocks themselves. Data must be collected to determine the characteristics of the background radiation in the underground facility including that from cosmic rays to determine its impact on future underground experiments. The goal this immersive simulation is to have students study this background radiation problem.
The Cosmic Ray Detector Immersive Simulation (CoRDIS) will focus on developing student understanding of the nature of science and scientific research. Students will develop a research question, design an experiment, then collect and analyze the data . Although students will be in a simulated environment, the data they obtain will be based on actual data obtained in the mine and at other places around the globe. Dr. Peggy Norris, Deputy Director of the Sanford Center for Science Education is providing the data obtained from real experiments in the Sanford Underground Lab, some of which was obtained by Davis-Bahcall scholars during the summer of 2011. Students will track the progress of their experiment using an embedded scientific journal. The information recorded in this journal will be accessible to teachers so they can evaluate student program. Students will participate in initial virtual training into the science and mechanics of the cosmic ray detectors and will also be provide a virtual research station at which they can analyze their results.
Initially, CoRDIS is being aligned with South Dakota state science content standards but as the new national core standards become available in science, the project will also become aligned at the national level. Once the development of CoRDIS is complete, it will be field-tested with high school students and the information obtained from the field-test will inform final changes in the project before research on effectiveness in meeting our goals begins.
Note: This project is being developed with funds from an NSF grant - DUSEL Education NSF Grant # 0970160
Check back soon on new developments with CoRDIS! - 8/19/11
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