Engaging students using virtual reality for earthquake science: first-impressions from in-person and remote collaboration

Michael R. Methvin, Dianne D. Pham, Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos, & Ashley Webb

Published August 16, 2021, SCEC Contribution #11643, 2021 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #003

Finding innovative ways to communicate earthquake related topics is fundamentally important to spreading awareness about earthquake hazard. Virtual Reality (VR) provides unique outreach and educational opportunities and allows students to interact with 3D earthquake models in unprecedented ways. Here we present preliminary discussions from a recent VR education event that implemented both in-class and remote VR activities. The VR class activity took place concurrently at the CERI Earthquake Modeling and Visualization Lab (UMemphis) and the Desoto Central high school in Southaven, Mississippi.
The VR California faults experience used in this activity was generated with the free software Paraview. The same software allows for remote collaboration sessions between multiple parties. In these sessions, two individuals can meet and work together within the same VR environment while being in different geographic locations.

The VR class activity was organized in two segments. For the first part, we conceptualized a learning game that required the students to use their observational, and descriptive skills. The students were split into groups and asked one at a time to enter a room, and immerse themselves into the VR activity. We did not disclose in advance the specifics of the geophysical environment they were about to explore (i.e., earthquake faults). After that, the students rejoined their group and used a whiteboard to visually describe the VR environment. Each student contributed more information and collectively worked to figure out the nature of the environment and infer what they were looking at with the goggles. The second part of the class activity included a VR remote collaboration session between the high school and the CERI Vis Lab. We were able to do this while connected from two different locations: Memphis (TN) and Desoto Central High in Mississippi. Our VR avatars met and worked together within the same VR environment, although we were connected from two distant locations. The instructor was able to guide a student through a virtual tour of the California fault system, and clarify students' questions regarding the virtual world.

Conclusively, the implementation of the VR components presented no major obstacles. The outreach event successfully engaged students through a learning VR environment specifically developed to increase earthquake hazard awareness. Virtual reality shows strong promise for replication of future events.

Key Words
Virtual Reality, UCERF3, Outreach, 3D Models, Earthquake Faults

Methvin, M. R., Pham, D. D., Kyriakopoulos, C., & Webb, A. (2021, 08). Engaging students using virtual reality for earthquake science: first-impressions from in-person and remote collaboration. Poster Presentation at 2021 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Communication, Education, and Outreach (CEO)