IAM Summer Challenge

2013: Sub-Seafloor Core

Create an interactive that helps solve a science mystery! You have a sample collected from sediments 2 miles below the ocean's surface 200 miles off the California coast (rough map). The sample is called a core-a long tube of material collected while drilling beneath the sea floor (1037A image). When researchers got this cored sample up to the ship, they noticed right away a darker layer, very different from the surrounding finer, lighter-colored layers that are typical of deep ocean sediments (watch JOIDES Resolution Expedition 328 to see the core being collected, and to see cores being analyzed).

It turned out that the darker layers contained many mineral grains and larger rocks, along with the remains of land plants, specifically bits of leaves, wood, and pine cones. Clearly this material had come from land. Scientists were amazed to find such well-preserved land material in sediments far from land, beneath such deep ocean.

But where on land did this material come from? Like forensic experts working a crime scene, we can look for clues to piece together an understanding of this core sample.

The Challenge

Allow people to analyze the minerals found in the layer of dark, land sediments in core 1037A. Allow people to compare the rock/mineral makeup of the deep ocean sub-seafloor core and three west coast rivers to determine where the sediment in the core came from. In the process, they should come to understand that by drilling samples from deep within the ocean floor, ocean scientists can learn about life on Earth, including life on land.

The interactive game should have the following steps:

  1. Look within the layer of textured, land sediments in the middle of core 1037A and determine the proportions of different mineral/rock types found there.
  2. View a map with the core drilling site and three main rivers marked: Columbia, Klamath, and Eel
  3. Form a hypothesis about where the sediments came from
  4. Test your hypothesis by getting the mineral make-up of that river and comparing it with the minerals from the core
  5. If hypothesis is null, make another hypothesis until you find a match

The core: In this gaming challenge, you must have an image of the core. We have sent a high resolution actual segment which represents this story. However if a realistic-looking art representation would work better, that would be acceptable-the most important elements are the shift in texture and the shape of the core; you can change the color if you like. The core must be oriented vertically in order for viewers to easily understand the progression of sediments from older to younger. The core image does not show the rocks and minerals.

The map: We're attaching a rough map showing five important things-the 3 rivers, the drilling site, and the location of Glacial Lake Missoula. They can use this map if they are willing to clean it up a bit. Any map must show relative distance accurately. There is also a map in the Zuffa article on page 2, which shows the location of the drill site. The map on Nova's Mystery of the Megafloods video shows the position of Glacial Lake Missoula. Or see iodp.tamu.edu/scienceops/maps.html to learn how to add drill sites to Google Earth.

Conclusion: Analysis of minerals from these 3 different rivers shows that the sediments were washed in from the Columbia River 700 miles north of where the drilling site was located, rather than from one of the two nearby rivers that are only 200 miles away. The cause was a cataclysmic event on land that resulted in 550 cubic miles of water rushing from Glacial Lake Missoula MT all the way down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean in about a day.

The Data

Here are the proportions of mineral types found in core 1037A and in the three rivers, based on an arbitrary unit scale.

Unit values:
3=moderate amount
Mineral/Rock type1037 coreColumbia RiverKlamath RiverEel River
Sedimentary Rock1133
Metamorphic Rock1133

To represent the rocks/minerals, you can use actual images or your own icons to distinguish the different rocks/minerals.


  1. Teams must have at least two members, and at least one member must be an IAM major or alum.
  2. At least one representative of the team must be available on June 28th at noon for the judging and awards (ideally the entire team will be present).
  3. Projects must be ready to present and files archived on our system by noon June 27th to be eligible for a prize.
  4. Projects must be interactive (any technology may be used however).
  5. Projects may use open source technology or assets, but all non-original materials must be credited and must abide by licensing.
  6. You must submit a minimum one page concept document that outlines your idea by June 5th to Matthew Board (mboard@colum.edu)
  7. Credits must be included (see below) for the science content.
  8. You can use the hi-res image of the core (public domain) OR you can create a realistic representation of the core. The core must be oriented vertically. It's important that players/users of your interactive work understand the progression of sediments from older to younger.
  9. There is a rough map available for you to use if you want to clean it up, or you can create your own original version. Any map must show relative distance accurately. For reference there is also a map in the Zuffa article on page 2, which shows the location of the drill site. The map on Nova's Mystery of the Megafloods video shows the position of Glacial Lake Missoula.


A lot of work went into providing the content for this challenge and you need to include the following credits in your submission:

Your team member names
Special thanks to -
Dr. John Firth, Gulf Coast Repository, Texas A&M University
Barbara Becker, Consultant in Exhibit Development and Research
Patrice Ceisel, Consultant in Exhibit Media
[LOGOS ONLY for NSF (National Science Foundation), IODP (Integrated Ocean Drilling Project), COL (Consortium for Ocean Leadership), Columbia College] - Logos will be available the first week of June


Friday, June 28th: Projects are due at noon, presentations and judging at noon, awards given out after judging. You will need at least one person from your team to be at the event to present the project.

Winning projects will be play-tested with audiences at the Shedd Aquarium this summer, and the concept could be included in a future proposal for National Science Foundation funding.


The judging criteria includes:
  1. Was provided data used? (10%)
  2. Is the project functional and free of errors? (10%)
  3. Does it involve people in the scientific process of hypothesizing and testing core sediments to find an outcome? (40%)
  4. Is it engaging? (40%)


  • Barbara Becker, Consultant in Exhibit Development and Research
  • Patrice Ceisel, Consultant in Exhibit Media
  • Janell Baxter, IAM
  • [TBA]


  • First place: $500 gift certificate
  • Second place: $200 gift certificate
  • Third place: $100 gift certificate


These resources show how elements look. Your team should create your own original content to represent the elements.


Rocks and minerals
  • Basalt- A volcanic rock, formed by the rapid cooling of lava.
  • Metamorphic rock-"arises from the transformation of existing rock types, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form"." (Wikipedia)
  • Glaucophane- A mineral that is typically blue in color. It only forms in metamorphic regions when other rocks are undergoing change.
  • Pyroxene- a mineral whose shape is almost cubic, or blocky. "The name pyroxene comes from the Greek words for fire and stranger. Pyroxenes were named this way because of their presence in volcanic lavas, where they are sometimes seen as crystals embedded in volcanic glass; it was assumed they were impurities in the glass, hence the name "fire strangers". However, they are simply early-forming minerals that crystallized before the lava erupted." (Wikipedia)
  • Amphibole- a mineral that is very fibrous, forming prism or needle-like crystals; talc and asbestos are amphiboles.
  • Sedimentary Rock- a mix of individual minerals that have eroded from rock; or, rock fragments that haven't eroded. In our samples, the sedimentary rocks are not sandstone or conglomerates, but rather fine-grained "mudstones."
  • Appearance of minerals: see resources page
Textbook Chapter on Ocean Sediments with photos of cores, description of the process, lots of cool graphics, particularly figure 5.6 and 5.7

Resources for ice age flooding

Scientific Ocean Drilling (coring)


Bulldog Starship

  • Nate Crumpley
  • Kyran Esler
  • Andrew Griffin
  • Alex Cook
  • Chris Prunotto

Team Catbug

  • Christina D'Attomo (Design)
  • Jack Bransky (Programming)
  • Mike Shahen (Design/Sound)
  • Cary Jasinski (Programming/Sound)
  • Cameron Cooper (Art)

Team Hungry Pandas

  • Alex Spriggs - Programmer
  • Quintin Puebla - Artist
  • Kyle Janssen - Artist


  • Jeremy Mack
  • Jacob Mooney
  • Steven Crump

The Laughing Jellybeans

  • Jonathan Paprocki
  • Brian Cielesz
  • Grant Baumgartner
  • Mallory Manden
  • Patric Harmon
  • Leticia Trujillo
  • Esmeralda Trujillo
  • Lila Chiu


What skill requirements are needed?
None! All skill levels are welcome. Just be willing to learn and participate.

How much time do I need to spend working on it?
The month-long time frame doesn't mean you have to work non-stop during the month - it just means that it is slower paced than a 24-hour game jam or hackathon. The amount of time you want to contribute is up to you and your team.

I'm not in Chicago this summer, can I still join?
Yes! You don't have to be on campus or in the city - you can work remotely! It is up to you and your team how you coordinate.

Can my friend from another department join? Can graduates participate?
Each team just needs one IAM person (such as a current IAM student or an IAM alum) so if you have friends outside of the department (or the school) who you'd like to work with - great! If you don't have a team no worries - we are meeting up on June 1st to see who is interested and get the teams formed.

Do we have to build a game?
Nope. You can build any type of solution to the challenge as long as it is interactive.

Can we build something physical?
Yes! Any technology can be used. If you want to build your own version of Optimus Prime, an interactive environment, or a board game that's fine. IAM does have a laser cutter, 3D printers, and other neat tech.

If you haven't participated in an IAM Summer Challenge yet, it's like a hackathon or game challenge.

If you've done one of those in 24 or 48 hours, imagine what you can do in a month!

No skill level requirements - just enthusiasm and willingness to create something awesome.