Move mountains with DNR’s new geology sandbox

Learning is getting a lot touchier. Children now get a feel for the world by deftly swiping fingers across touchscreens.

Well now the Washington Geological Survey has a new way to really dig in to the terrain and see how topography influences landscapes. Our geologists have set up an augmented-reality sandbox that lets users move mountains and see how the topography of slopes and mounds affects our natural world.

An Xbox Kinect beams a dynamic topographic map onto the sand through a projector, tracking the activity below. As users terraform the sand, the contour lines and elevation colors update i8n the mounds of sand.

A magic hand hovered above the sand throws new elements onto the map, forming rain showers that cascade down hills and through new channels to give users an idea of how watersheds work in the real environment.

So if you get the urge to build mountains, mold rivers and shape new landscapes, stop in at the Washington Geology Library in Room 173 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE, Olympia, WA 98501.