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  • Challenge students to take on a variety of scientific roles to help solve the planet’s environmental and energy issues with Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth.

    The game is built around students learning specialist knowledge and then working collaboratively to complete two missions to:

    • determine the best location to drill for hot, energy-producing geothermal water
    • determine the best location to drill for a magma chamber, which could be a future solution to energy shortages.

    The science behind the game is loosely based on the research being done in Krafla, Iceland, and the real-life proposal from scientists to drill into a magma chamber. The key goal of the game is to engage students in science and engineering and present ideas about different careers that science and engineering can offer.

    This interactive image map shows steam coming from a geothermal power station, with buttons to go to for further information.

    Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth – resources

    This interactive introduces and houses resources developed by Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth – a University of Canterbury project funded by Curious Minds.

    Select here to view the full transcript and copyright information.

    Students work in teams of four with each student filling a specialist role of:

    • volcanologist
    • environmental risk manager
    • geophysicist
    • drilling engineer.

    Each of the specialist roles comes with its own information booklet and videos. The first mission – set in the 1970s – helps the students build knowledge. As students work through the mission, they receive immediate feedback about their drilling decisions. The second mission – set in 2035 – involves drilling into a magma chamber and choosing a location to set up a Magmathermal Environmental Research Centre.

    Success is evaluated based on three key criteria of:

    • successfully drilling in the right location
    • management of risks and hazards
    • cost-effectiveness.

    In this activity, students work as specialist scientists and engineers to complete two missions as geothermal drilling teams.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • explain some of the science concepts associated with the various challenges of drilling for energy close to volcanoes
    • discuss aspects of the geophysics, volcanology, engineering and/or environmental challenges of drilling for energy close to volcanoes
    • make use of videos and information booklets to inform their actions as specialist scientists
    • work together as a team of scientists to make decisions based on scientific data
    • gain insights about the roles scientists play when exploring and finding sustainable energy solutions.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content

    Useful links

    Geothermal energy in Aotearoa New Zealand

    Learn more about geothermal energy with these resources:

    Krafla Magma Testbed

    The Krafla Magma Testbed is located in Krafla, Iceland. It is an international project to learn about magma energy and build the world’s first magma observatory. Find out more about the project with these resources:


    This activity was developed by Kylie Beck, a graduate honours student at the University of Canterbury.

    Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth was created by Professor Ben Kennedy and Dr Jonathan Davidson with help from teachers Ian Reeves and Georgina Barrett, artist Elizabeth Mordensky and videographer Rob Stowell. Leapfrog – a 3D geological software company – created the magma holograms.

    The project received funding from Curious Minds and GNS Science Beneath the waves.

      Published 28 February 2024 Referencing Hub articles
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