Using 3D printing for the instruction of petrophysical properties
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With the recent increase in natural gas production, the demand for college educated petroleum engineers has increased. A greater number of high school graduates are now applying to petroleum engineering degree programs, however, the admission requirements to petroleum engineering schools are becoming increasingly stricter. Secondary educators have a greater challenge to better prepare students to compete for these positions and there is a need to introduce petrophysical concepts to students in the most effective manner. One petrophysical concept is porosity of rock. In this report, background information on rock formation and porosity of rocks is provided along with a brief summary on how 3D printers operate. But primarily, a lesson plan is presented to teach rock porosity in a novel way using 3D printed enlargements of porous rock from x-ray microtomography images of packed sand. The hypothesis was that students will gain greater understanding of petrophysical properties when using 3D prints of rocks. The porosity lesson with a lab using the 3D printed rocks was taught to a treatment group of 20 upcoming 6th graders. A porosity lesson without the use of 3D printed rocks was didactically taught to a control group of 14 additional 6th graders. Because of time limitations, not all of the students from the treatment group were able to experience all elements of the lab. However, every student in the control group received instruction and practice on how to calculate porosity of rock. The treatment group showed greater gain in learning the abstract concept about porosity that rocks of similar structure will have equivalent porosity regardless of grain size. However, the control group indicated greater gain learning the fundamental concepts of the definition of porosity, how to calculate porosity, and at being able to transfer their knowledge of percent porosity to a general problem about percentages. Despite the limited sample size and other sources of error, using 3D printed enlargements of rock was found to enhance students’ abilities to visualize abstract petrophysical properties. However, benefits from didactic instruction of fundamental concepts of petrophysical properties were found as well.