Tuesday, December 8, 2015

And the winner is...Lego in Arabia

We have just wrapped up Petroleum Geophysics (GEOS 4533) at the University of Arkansas. This course is undergraduate and graduate in scope and covers fundamental aspects of seismic imaging, including history, wave propagation, synthetic seismograms, reservoir fluid properties, basic elastic wave concepts and 2D/3D acquisition. That is a lot of material! But 37 students made it to the finish line.

Graduate students are required to take on a random subject of my choice, read reference papers on the topic, and compose a presentation to the class. In previous years the presentation was an SEG-style talk of 10-15 minutes using slides.

As 2014/5 SEG President I traveled to many conferences and saw an increasing use of short videos for awards presentations. If someone could not attend the award ceremony, the video was a stand-in. One particularly good case was Dave Hale's video at EAGE that walked us around his office at Colorado School of Mines on the eve of his retirement, something that could not have been done even with Dave in attendance. The video medium added something unique and interesting.

So this semester I assigned my graduate students in class to prepare a 5 minute video on their topic for presentation to the class. No other constraints were given. Free reign for creativity. And creative it was: some did voice-over on powerpoint slides, or a selfie movie at various locations with rambling PBS-style dialog, or hand drawn text and equations, even movie clips from Easy Rider and the theme song from Pocahontas. But each of these also had some real information on the topic, the video format allowed careful dialog that moved beyond the unrehearsed improv of most student presentations. Add the challenge of learning video composition software and formats and I would say they all worked harder than would have been required for a regular talk.

Another point that came to mind is the intimacy and permanence of the video medium. One student did an excellent overview of turbidites that not only showed her technical ability to understand and explain, but also her calm and confident speaking voice on a scientific subject.  I would suggest she post this video to YouTube and include a link with every job application.

As always, there is a competition for best presentation. All videos were introduced by their author (like the Cannes Film Festival) and shown, then everyone (even undergraduates) voted for Best Video. It was close, but the winner was Abram Barker with Lego Movie: The Deserts of Arabia (his topic as "desert"). Second in the voting was CO2 Sequestration by Forrest McFarlin. Congrats!

Title and selected frames from Barker's winning video.

Barker with winner's prize owl and Dr. Liner.
Frame from Noah Morris' video Fluid Substitution. Gotta love the color coded, hand drawn Gassmann equation. 
Bryan Bottoms explains his home made mud motor in a frame from his video Horizontal Drilling.

Fall 2015 class photo for Petroleum Geophysics, a wonderful group of students.