BGS blogs

We made a Minecraft volcano!

Find out how a friend of BGS has been using Minecraft to create educational geological models during lockdown.

15/02/2021
Volcano model built in Minecraft
A view of our volcano world. Source: BGS / Minecraft is ©2009–2014 Mojang AB

BGS Geospatial data specialist, Steve Thorpe, has developed several Minecraft worlds for BGS. These Minecraft worlds, showing real-world locations, use coloured glass blocks to represent the true 3D geological structures found underground.

During the Covid-19 pandemic a colleague of Steve’s discussed the idea of her son creating a Minecraft model that BGS might use as part of its education website, Discovering Geology.

Minecraft makes a brilliant teaching resource for children, teenagers and adults alike, and the models are hosted by BGS, enabling online geological learning using Minecraft as a platform.

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Sean Langley takes over the story:

I have been playing Minecraft on and off since about 2014. During the initial COVID-19 lockdown my friends and I were home schooling, and in our spare time playing a lot of Minecraft. My mother, Denise, noticed this and pitched the idea of us making a volcano for educational purposes.

We put some initial ideas together in Minecraft, like the size we were planning to make it and the ‘block pallet’ we were considering using. We had a Zoom meeting with the team at BGS to discuss our ideas and to show what we had planned. Steve and his colleague Russell Lawley thought our ideas were good and gave us pointers as to where we could progress, which included adding more to the Redstone action (moving parts), a magma chamber at the bottom of the volcano and having side vents present on the quarter we cut out of the model for demonstration purposes. After the meeting we finished the volcano then worked on our own little features like the board with the legend key on it and the information made out of lava. We then built a farming village to show that the land around a volcano is very fertile.

Hopefully people will enjoy using our model to learn the structure of a volcano in a very informal environment. We also hope that the addition of parts (such as the Redstone and TNT) will encourage a younger audience to also get involved as they can interact with these features and, when they have finished exploring, blow up the side of the volcano!

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Sean’s experience using Minecraft is a clear example of how the game can gain and hold youngster’s attentions. BGS are hoping that the model created by Sean, Nathan and Eryn can be used by schools and colleges to explain the process of volcano evolution. The beauty of Minecraft is that not only can you create something that stands by itself as a teaching resource, like a volcano but in addition to the main feature, Minecraft allows you build something that interacts with the surroundings. Minecraft can be used to explain difficult concepts such as the idea that humans settle near natural hazards for good reasons, like the fertile farmland surrounding volcanoes which produces a rich crop, despite the dangers of living in the shadow of an active volcano.

If anyone would like to review the volcano resource and work with BGS to develop it further for use in schools then please get in touch with Stephen Thorpe, Geospatial data specialist.

Steve Thorpe is a Geospatial Technician and has worked with BGS data and 3D modelling for over 15 years. He is passionate about making BGS data more accessible to different audiences.

Stephen Thorpe
Stephen Thorpe

Geospatial data specialist and lead driller

BGS Keyworth
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