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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2004-27

Summary of the Field Tests of the Alpha Version of the Plume Busters Software

P. Allen Macfarlane
Geohydrology Section
Kansas Geological Survey

KGS Open File Report 2004-27
June 2004


Plume Busters is designed to enhance the teaching of ground-water principles to students in earth and environmental science classes. Software development was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Using the Plume Busters software students take on the role of an environmental consultant and apply the principles of ground-water flow and well hydraulics to solve a simulated contamination problem. The software consists of (1) a JAVA-based model to simulate ground-water flow and the movement of contaminants through the aquifer and (2) a set of linked HTML pages. The user interacts with the numerical model through a user interface called Map View. Map View contains a gridded map of the spill site vicinity and a series of function buttons that allow the user to add and collect water samples from monitoring wells, resample monitoring wells, add production/injection wells, submit a wellfield design, ask for money, and advance the simulation one week at a time. The set of linked HTML pages sets the stage for the simulation, provides information to the user participating in the simulation, and establishes the rules of the simulation. Development of the software alpha version was completed by the late fall of 2003.

Student volunteers attending the University of Kansas Upward Bound Math Science Experience informally tested an early version Phase 1 of the Plume Busters software.

Formal software testing was undertaken beginning in February and extending through April 2004 using students enrolled in community (junior) and four-year college science classes. Instructors were solicited directly or volunteered to allow the use of the students in their classes as testers of the software. Students enrolled in 5 undergraduate science courses at 3 universities and 2 junior colleges were selected. Unfortunately, formal testing could not be arranged at any high schools. The procedure for conducting the testing was as straightforward. Students volunteering to take part in the testing were given consent forms to read and sign and were given a pre-test to establish a baseline of their understanding of ground-water and earth science principles. Once the pre-test was completed the student testers were given a survey form to fill out while they worked with the software. Once the session with the software was completed, the student tester was given a post-test to assess any changes in the level of understanding of ground-water and earth science principles.

This report on the alpha testing is in two parts. The first part of the report focuses on the student surveys and the second part on the pre- and post-testing. Each part contains a s brief discussion of the survey or testing instruments followed by a summery and discussion of the results.


This project supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Award Number GEO-0224507). On behalf of my colleagues on this project, I wish to express our gratitude to Dr. Carl McElwee, Les Thomas, Judith Spor, Dr. Marcia Schulmeister, and Dr. David Krischner for the loan of their students as testers of the Plume Busters software. The author also wishes to thank the student testers for their willingness to participate in this research project.

The complete report is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

alpha_version.pdf (524 kb)

To read this file, you will need the Acrobat PDF Reader, available free from Adobe.

Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed online June 2004
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