In observance of Earth Day, the Department of Earth Sciences set up an Earth Day event at Johnson Hall for University Middle School students Friday, April 22.
Students were split into several groups when they arrived at the building, where a variety of activities were set up for them in multiple rooms.
Among the rooms made for the event were the VR room, the Drone Demonstration room and The Earthquake Machine: Stick-Slip Fault room.
In the VR room, a brief presentation was given to students on major natural faults that are in California.
Following the presentation, each student was given a chance to analyze the faults through a virtual reality experience with a VR headset.
Students talked among themselves, excited and enthusiastic about the experience, as seeing 3D printed models of faults was a new experience.
The room was led by Center for Earthquake Research and Information associate professor Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos.
“We’re trying to use modern visualization techniques to explain topics around earthquake hazards to people who aren’t experts in the course,” he said.
Kyriakopoulos said that this new way of presenting faults has become a magnet and draws attention from a lot of people. By earthquake experts using VR technology, they are hoping to demystify the subject of faults.
“Earthquake-related topics are difficult to explain because we are talking about structure,” Kyriakopoulos said. “So for people, it’s very difficult to visualize, especially on a map or flatscreen.”
The Drone Room was located in the auditorium of Johnson Hall. A graduate student led the room and presented a presentation to the University Middle School students. She showed students how to control a drone, along with the factors and logistics that affect the accuracy of drone imagery.
After going over one section, she would select a student to demonstrate how to correctly fly and control a drone.
The auditorium would fill with voices of students eager to get a chance at flying a drone.
Once someone was chosen, students looked with excitement and curiosity as one of their peers hovered the drone over their heads.
Earth Sciences associate professor Youngsang Kwon was a leader in arranging the event. He said there were a total of about 40 participants from the graduate school, Center for Science Research Institute and UofM’s science department who helped in putting the event together.
“They all took part in preparing, as little as printing a signage or creating new material for the event.”
Kwon said he was very impressed with how much passion and work the graduate students put into hosting the event for the middle school students.
“After our event, I got nothing but very positive comments not only from the middle schoolers and teachers but from all the graduate students. They really enjoyed this event.” he said.
This was the Department of Earth Sciences’ first time hosting an Earth Day event for University Middle School. With the success of this event, Kwon hopes that the Department of Earth Sciences will be able to host other events with the school.
“We look forward to continuing collaboration between the school and our department. It’s going to be really great,” he said.
When explaining the importance of holding events like this on Earth Day, Kwon explained how understanding how the earth operates can help individuals understand the importance of protecting the earth.
“It’s very important, especially in this uncertain era. Educating people on sustainability is important,” he said. “We as earth scientists feel like every day is Earth Day, but having these types of events will help students and the general public understand the importance of our environment.”
A student flies a drone during the drone demonstration portion of the event // Photo: Aarron Fleming