Mission Statement

To use computer technology to evoke the essence, the gritty marrow of scientific research for those online and to excite and engage them in the active learning of science.

What is vSURF?

The Virtual Sanford Underground Research Facility (vSURF) project is a collaborative effort among scientists, educators, and computer technologists. Our goal is to exploit computer technologies to provide and enhance the opportunities visitors have to learn more about science and research. We are the division of the Sanford Center for Science Education responsible for designing, developing, operating and researching computer-based systems applied to STEM learning. This effort can range from creating and generating digital images and animations on relevant scientific topics, through developing elaborate 3-dimensional, immersive simulations and games providing information and experiences which allow visitors to develop a greater understanding of and appreciation for scientific research. vSURF efforts thus far have been associated with the deep underground science and engineering laboratory which has been under development at the Homestake Mine for the past several years, with support from the State of South Dakota, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. Central to recent work at vSURF has been the, Homestake core comprised of an accurate, immersive 3D model of the Sanford Underground Research Facility which can be used as the foundation for simulations or games designed to support learning about specific


vSURF is part of the Sanford Center for Science Education. SCSE Director, Dr. Ben Sayler, and Deputy Director Peggy Norris lead the Center's efforts to research, develop and enhance science education, particularly that associated with the underground laboratory being developed at what was the Homestake Mine. vSURF, led by Dr. Stephen Krebsbach, provides the computer technology component of the SCSE effort. Dr. Krebsbach, along with Judy Vondruska and Dr. Steven Graham provide the leadership for a far-reaching collaborative effort involving scientists, educators and computer technologists focused on making effective use of computer technology in support of SCSE's mission.

The linked organizational structure describes the dynamic, collaborative system which is vSURF, including a graphical view highlighting the overlaps and connections of the various interdisciplinary elements.

History of Dusel

Steve Graham, Judy Vondruska, and Stephen Krebsbach each brought a long-standing interest in science, technology, and education with them to early meetings about the proposed deep underground science and engineering laboratory (DUSEL) which was to be developed at what had been the Homestake Mine, in Lead, SD. All three focused on the challenges and possibilities the proposed lab presented -- a fascinating amalgam of history, nature, science, and engineering -- but remote enough that few would be able to experience it directly. Computer and network technology provide an opportunity to bridge the distance and enable virtual visits and participation in the research. Over time, discussions regarding education and outreach for the proposed lab evolved into various conceptions of a "virtual DUSEL" and ultimately, the collaborative effort which has become vSURF. The generous philanthropy of T. Denny Sanford has created the Sanford Center for Science Education (SCSE), which in turn provides a home for vSURF. Support from Ben Sayler and Peggy Norris of the SCSE have enabled key developments for vSURF. Funding from our various sponsers, such as the South Dakota EPSCoR, have provided the resources to develop aspects of vSURF. With an organization and infrastructure firmly in place, vSURF is eagerly pursuing its mission.

Project Leadership Team



Last updated on