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K-State Today

August 31, 2020

NSF grant success in geology department

Submitted by Malorie Sougey

Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences’ geology department have been awarded two National Science Foundation RAPID grants to help the department excel in the online delivery of geology through the establishment of new facilities.

K-State geologist Matt Brueseke worked with Graham Andrews of West Virginia University, and with their grant and K-State and West Virginia University students, they will set up a 3D photography system to scan rocks, minerals and fossils to allow students to explore these materials in a virtual world via Sketchfab. These materials are essential to geoscience education, and with this system, students will be able to have access to these materials even when learning online. They will also promote new and existing Sketchfab 3D models through social media to increase awareness of these models for the public and K-12 educators.

"Even in the face of the challenges of COVID-19, we at K-State are trying to find creative ways of being at the forefront of education," said Pamela Kempton, head of the geology department.

Brueseke and Kempton join fellow K-State geologist Brice Lacroix using a grant to purchase an automated thin section scanning device that will allow students to explore rocks in thin sections online. They have offered to make the facility available to geologists in the region free of charge in the first year due to the urgent need for online resources. This project will also have a concerted social media effort to share the progress and features of the device.

"Collectively, these two awards set us up to be a regional leader for this sort of work," Kempton said. "Our successes show that NSF agrees what we are doing is critical to the health of the geoscience discipline in this age of COVID-19."