December 6, 2012Vol. 42, Issue 9

Gold Fever: Students Create Hands-On Exhibits for Gateway

Sam Jameson and Shane Tack demonstrate their Magna Bike for the Gold Fever exhibit at the Gateway.

Sam Jameson and Shane Tack demonstrate their Magna Bike for the Gold Fever exhibit at the Gateway.

Rachel Teasdale, former interim director of the Gateway Science Museum and current professor of geological and environmental sciences, knew that this fall’s exhibit, Gold Fever! Untold Stories of the California Gold Rush, was not going to have a lot of hands-on activities. Since one of the goals for exhibits at the museum is that visitors participate in an active way, she created an assignment for her students in Mineralogy and Lithology to create hands-on activities. In groups, students came up with a topic and created hands-on stations where visitors can learn about minerals, mining, and the uses of minerals in the exhibit.

From left: Trinity Sterling, Sam Jamison, Corrine Tanner, and Shane Tack.

From left: Trinity Sterling, Sam Jamison, Corrine Tanner, and Shane Tack.

As a campus-based museum, Gateway has a large number of college students participating in class-based projects at the museum (nearly 100 students each semester). Service learning is a win-win for students and visitors—students get to participate at the museum by providing content-based activities, and visitors get the benefit of high-quality information. Overall, the museum is a great place to showcase the high-quality work our students deliver.

“In creating exhibit activities, students had to find creative ways to teach concepts of mineral identification and geological environments without in-person contact with visitors,” says Teasdale. “The activities had to be not only accurate, but self-explanatory, durable, and inspiring enough for visitors to want to participate in the activities. I was pleasantly surprised at the range of activities the students selected—I had made some suggestions as examples of activities, but some of them came up with ideas I hadn't considered. The mineralogy of an iPhone, for example, really speaks to the interests of the students and helps explain the relevance of geologic products in our daily (hourly?) lives!”

The following are the student-created, hands-on exhibits on display until December 30 at the Gateway Science Museum.

Magna Bike
Created by: Shane Tack, Sam Jamison, Charlie Gomes, and Sharla Stockton
Our goal for this project was to create something that interested visitors and made it easy for them to relate to the topic. “Magna Bike” is a matching game that challenges visitors to figure out which mineral is used in the making of different bike parts. The project setup included an actual bike with five different magnet plates marking the five different parts and a tray of five different minerals, each having their own magnet to connect to the bike. After reading the clue card provided, the visitor takes a guess as to where the mineral belongs and places it on the bike. Once he or she has placed all five of the minerals, there is an answer card hanging below each part with the name of the correct mineral and an explanation of the properties and occurrence of the mineral. We thought this would be a great way to get visitors thinking about and interested in the topic of gold and minerals.

Trinity Sterling at the “Mineralogy of an iPhone” display she developed with a team for the Gold Fever Exhibit.

Trinity Sterling at the “Mineralogy of an iPhone” display she developed with a team for the Gold Fever Exhibit.

Simple Identification of Minerals
Created by Corrine Tanner, Daniel Lane, Russ Lucero, and Jake Liron
Our project was focused on the identification of minerals using physical properties such as cleavage, hardness, streak color, crystal form, magnetism, and luster. Common rock-forming minerals were displayed for testing purposes along with a magnifying glass, streak plates, a magnet, and glass for testing hardness. We displaced the rock-forming minerals koalinite, quartz, muscovite, magnetite, hematite, calcite, halite, flourite, graphite, and pyrite.
The main idea of our project was to bring the biggest part of what we do as students in a college mineralogy classroom to visitors. We wanted them to be able to observe and test physical properties of a mineral and then apply identification methods.

Mineralogy of an iPhone   
Created by Trinity Sterling, Noah Abramson, Justin Vojak, and Shane Tack
The goal of our project was to identify the minerals used in an iPhone, where they are used, and where they are found and mined. The minerals included: gold, zinc, spudomene, copper, tantalite, cassiterite, chromite, tungsten, and silicon. Each of these minerals are found in various parts of an iPhone, and they are mined all over the world, in places including Chile, Alaska, New Mexico, Utah, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Portugal, and British Colombia. Gold is used to cover exposed metal surfaces to keep them from corroding. Chromite is mined to make stainless steel that covers the back of the iPhone. Tungsten is used between different layers of the phone to integrate processors. Spodumene is a lithium ore and is used for the iPhone battery. Copper is used for wiring and circuit boards. Silicon is used to make transistors in the integrated circuits and it is a component of glass. Tantalum is used in capacitors. Tin is used as a transparent capacitor in touch screens.

Kathleen McPartland, Public Affairs and Publications

—Photo credit: Erik Aguilar