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Earth Sciences

Grossmont College Technology Plan 2007-2010.


Earth Sciences


Except for room 310 (geology/oceanography lab), all earth science classrooms are currently equipped with "smart" systems including computers, DVD/VCR players, and data projectors. Rooms 316 and 306 are also equipped with document cameras and data projectors that were upgraded with block grant funds to the especially bright EIKI model 210. The data projector in room 315 is an older, relatively dim model.

Standard fluorescent lighting illuminates all three lecture classrooms (306, 315, and 316). Switches in the back of each room can turn off separate banks of light fixtures. Although dimming the room provides enough contrast to read text-based power point slides, all room lights must be turned off to give sufficient contrast to the landscape photography emphasized in earth science presentations.

Computer-based assignments are delivered via the internet or the Chemistry / Earth Science computer network in room 313. Several of our applications were developed using "Toolbook" prior to the widespread use of the internet, and must therefore be installed on a local area network such as room 313. Earth Science currently owns a "lab pack" of 25 licenses for ArcGIS 9.0, which is also installed in room 313. ArcGIS 9.0 runs on these computers (typically PIII 1.66 MHz, with 512 Mb RAM), but performance is unacceptably slow. Students currently download "PetraScape", (a real-time 3D geology simulation developed in-house) from Gary Jacobson's website, and run it on their home computers or in room 313. Like ArcGIS 9.0, PetraScape's performance is marginal on the computers in room 313.

Field studies are essential to the Earth Science curriculum. Our department is committed to providing instruction in the most advanced field-operated technology available. Using mostly Block Grant funding, we have acquired, and now utilize a diverse array of high-tech field equipment including: GPS units, YSI-meters (salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids), salinity refractometers, stream flow meters, Kestral hand-held weather stations, and Thermal infrared sensors. Many of these devices are also used in our labs.

All full time faculty have office computers, internet, and email. These computers (typically PIII 1.33 MHz, with 256 Mb RAM) are not adequate to run current earth science applications such as ArcGIS, PetraScape and 3D Studio Max. Faculty using these applications must use their personal computers.

Curriculum Impact

There are three recent technological advancements that our department expects will have a major impact on curriculum.

First is the ability of modern computers to smoothly render 3D landscapes in real-time using satellite/aerial orthophotos mapped onto digital elevation models (DEMs). Web-based applications like "Google Earth" and NASA's "World Wind" have made this technology public and have already been incorporated into our curriculum. We strongly accept real-time 3D as a powerful tool for illustrating Earth Science concepts and are committed to advancing its use over at least the next three years. In particular, we would like to continue, as in PetraScape, exploring means by which interactivity with virtual landscapes can enhance existing curricula.

Second, the greatly enhanced precision of WAAS enabled GPS receivers will finally make mapping via GPS possible. Students in lab and field classes will gain hands-on practical experience in the collection, interpretation, management, and analysis of data (topographic, biogeographic, geologic, meteorological, etc.) and make reasonably accurate maps. In addition the department needs at least one GPS of map-grade or survey-grade for mapping activities that require an extremely high degree of precision.

Third, ArcIMS an ArcGIS extension that allows delivery of dynamic maps and GIS data via the Web is being incorporated into the curriculum to strengthen articulation and prepare students with the latest technological advances in GIS applications. We are just beginning to explore ArcIMS's capabilities but, because it can be used with industry-standard Web development tools, we anticipate developing custom applications that augment curricula and increase community awareness of our programs.

Approximate Number of Students Served

Earth Science enrollment is approximately 3500 students per year.

Support Impact

The department plans extensive use of the computers in the science learning center to accomplish its technological goals. Software and hardware support here is essential, yet it is unclear where this support will come from.

Year 1 (2007-2008)


Integrate WAAS enabled GPS activities into curriculum. Bring faculty computers up to at least the performance levels of those in the new science learning center. Enable department faculty engaged in software development (Jacobson � PetraScape) and software-linked curriculum development (Curran � ArcGIS/ArcIMS) the capability of performing these tasks on their office computers. Acquire one base-level computer system for adjunct use and a GradeMaster scoring machine for the Engelhorn multiuse center. Install upgraded video projector in room 315 and a second data projector in the Science Learning Center (room 201).

Action to Meet Objective

Purchase 16 WAAS enabled GPS receivers. Submit request for Chemistry/Earth Science technician who will, among other duties, assist with GPS waypoint programming and downloading. Purchase 4 new basic faculty computers and 2 new development-level faculty computers. Purchase software licenses for 3D Studio Max and Director MX. Purchase a GradeMaster scoring machine, and two EIKI 71 data projectors.

Year 2 (2008-2009)


Continue integration of WAAS enabled GPS activities into curriculum. Continue upgrading field mapping and measurement competencies so as to match the technologies used in freshman/sophomore ES classes at SDSU. We also need to preserve the 35mm slide collections of retired faculty by scanning them into digital format and obtain a high-resolution digital camera for acquiring new images.

Action to Meet Objective

Purchase another 16 WAAS enabled GPS receivers and one map-grade or survey-grade GPS unit. Purchase one leaf-area meter such as AccuPAR LP-80, one Qualimeterics albedo meter and one Theta Portable Soil Moisture Meter. Purchase one Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED 35mm scanner, one Nikon SF Auto Slide Feeder, Adobe PhotoShop CS2 and put requested Earth Science technician to work at scanning the department's slide collection. Alternately, select and send slides out for professional scanning. If previous request for technician fails, resubmit request for Chemistry/Earth Science technician. Purchase one Nikon D80 SLR digital camera.

Year 3 (2009-2010)


Integrate GIS and lap top applications and into the curricula of selected courses. Use projection microscopy in our classrooms. Update ArcGIS and Arc IMS software.

Action to Meet Objective

Purchase projection microscope; "lab-pack" upgrade for ArcGis / ArcIMS; and 32 lap top computers.

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Last Updated: 09/29/2014
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