Upgrading Computational Capabilities for Geology Majors Courses in Renovated Shideler Hall

Project Title: Upgrading Computational Capabilities for Geology Majors Courses in Renovated Shideler Hall

Project Lead's Name: Mike Brudzinski

Email: brudzimr@miamioh.edu

Phone: (513) 529-9758

Please Choose the Primary Affiliation: CAS

Are There Other Project Team Members?: Yes

Other team member name: Brian Currie

Project Details: We are seeking funding for 33 desktop computers to outfit our new teaching computer lab in the renovated Shideler Hall. In the old Shideler Hall, 10 computers purchased in 2011 were located in a much smaller common-use computer laboratory where they were utilized for both teaching and student research purposes. Part of the reason for expanding our teaching computer lab is that there has been an increase in computer usage in recent years due to the addition of new undergraduate geology majors courses, the implementation of new software in existing courses, and higher enrollments due to new thematic sequences and new majors (a 7-fold increase in the number of majors from a decade ago). These courses have specific software needs and our current computing power is stretched beyond workable capacity. Adequate computing power is necessary to provide students with quantitative and visualization capabilities that enhances conceptual learning, and is required for the large-scale, threedimensional, subsurface datasets common in geology. These types of data are impossible for students to manipulate without computational assistance. Advanced computing capabilities are also needed to ensure students have familiarity with high-end industry software, which is sought by potential employers once students enter the workforce. A centralized departmental computing facility is required due to distribution restrictions mandated for software obtained through external grants. In other words, this is not software students can download and run on their own laptops. In addition, students must have unrestricted computer access outside of scheduled classes and labs in order to complete course assignments and conduct independent student research projects.

Problem Project Attempts to Solve: In recent years, there have been 20 different courses that utilize the computers in the Geology/EES departmental computer laboratory. This translates into at least 4 classes each semester using the computers in this laboratory. 100% of our graduating Geology majors over the past few years have taken a course that requires use of the laboratory computers. In addition, the absolute number of students impacted has grown since the department created two new majors (Environmental Earth Science and Earth Science) that require courses that use the department computer laboratory. We have been successful in funding industrial software packages, including a recent 3-year, $5.3 million software grant from LMKR, Ltd. which provides our students with the cutting-edge technology that they will encounter when they enter the work force. Over the past few years this software has been used by every geology major/minor as part of their course work, and also by 5-10 majors each semester conducting independent research projects. It is imperative that we as an institution demonstrate our commitment to our students by continuing to upgrade and maintain the hardware required by this industry standard software or we will risk jeopardizing our ability to secure external grants for this type of software in the future. As it stands, the existing 10 computers in the department computer lab have insufficient memory to install all the software and datasets used in our courses.

Does this project focus on graduate student education or graduate student life?: No

If yes, explain: This project focuses on our 3 undergraduate majors in Department of Geology and Environment Earth Science, but it will also improve the educational experience for graduate students as many of our upper-level undergraduate majors courses are also offered at the graduate (500) level.

Does it meet tech fee criteria?: The recent renovations to Shideler Hall have provided a new opportunity to improve how we teach our undergraduate majors. Our prior teaching computer lab was one-third the size, such that only 10 computers were available for student use. Considering our majors courses often have 3 times as many students as workstations, all course computer assignments were by necessity, group projects. In this environment, we found that students who already had a computer aptitude would "take over" control of the computer and other students would simply watch, even if the roles were assigned by the instructor. Unfortunately, this further accentuated the disparity in the computation skills of our student population. There is now enough space (32 seats + 1 instructor station) in our renovated computer lab for all students in our upper level majors classes to have a computer and develop their computing skills. This is critical for ensuring that our students are independently proficient with all the software used in our courses. In addition, adequate computational facilities will enable additional undergraduate majors to conduct independent research projects utilizing datasets obtained from both environmental and natural resource industry partners. These types of research projects not only provide students with the ability to solve complex geological and environmental problems, but also gain "real-world" experience that will serve them well should they enter the workforce or continue their education in graduate school.

How will you assess the project?: We see three specific outcomes from the proposed hardware additions to the department computer lab: 1) Students will be able to better visualize large-scale subsurface datasets that are otherwise inaccessible, 2) Students will develop proficiencies in industrystandard computer software they will encounter after graduation, and 3) Students in our new majors will all take a least one course where they will independently utilize computers and software in our laboratory. To assess these outcomes, we will deploy a student survey in courses that utilize the upgraded computer facilities and incorporate specific questions into our graduation survey to evaluate the impact of the new computers on those courses. Survey results can be compared with past surveys that assessed student opinions on the adequacy of the department computer facility. As part of our evaluation of the new majors, we will compile information for graduating students to see how many courses they take that utilize the computer laboratory.

Have you received tech fee funding in the past?: Yes

What results were achieved?: I applied for one Tech Fee award in FY2014 and submitted two proposals in FY2015. These proposals were not funded. I applied for two Tech Fee awards in FY2009 that were funded, but final reports were not required at that stage. The primary results from the FY2009 proposals were to 1) purchase laptops that enhanced the rigor in both field and laboratory teaching settings, and 2) purchase desktop computers for our student lab that encouraged our faculty to develop more computational assignments in our undergraduate majors courses.

Did you submit a final report?: No

What happens to the project in year two?: We will maintain these computers with our TSR in the same manner as our current department computers. We do not anticipate extra costs for maintenance and supplies beyond our current situation.

Hardware: Dell Optiplex 9020 MiniTower and Dell 24 Monitor - E2416H, $36,135.66

Total Budget: $36,135.66