Visualizing Stress and Strain: Using Visual Basic 6.0 to Provide a Dynamic Learning Environment
Nathaniel E. Reish and Dr. Gary H. Girty
San Diego State University Department of Geological Sciences


Across the country, structural geology is a requirement for all students majoring in geology. Students normally enroll in structural geology during their sophomore year after having completed only a few courses in college-level algebra, if any at all. As a result they generally lack the intuition and mathematical background necessary to visualize the complexities of stress and strain, two of the most fundamental concepts covered in introductory structural geology courses. Compounding this problem are the static two-dimensional illustrations that commonly riddle textbooks on the subject.

Stress and strain are important concepts which provide the physical and geometrical context of how and why all natural structures form. In my own college career, it wasn't until several semesters after I completed a structural geology course that I fully understood the importance of these two concepts. In an attempt to prevent another student from following the same painful path to discovery and understanding I developed both a computer software program and a web site for visualizing of stress and strain. It is my hope that the program and tutorials found at this site and covered in this thesis will leave a student with a sound foundation upon which to build a solid understanding of stress and strain. The resulting program is called Visualizing Structural Geology and will run on any PC using Windows 95, 98, 2000, or NT 4 . Visualizing Structural Geology was written in Microsoft Visual Basic Version 6.0 and HTML 4. It is broken down into two parts Visualizing Stress and Visualizing Strain. The program and tutorial are available through a site published on the World Wide Web ( Currently, the web site has received over 1,000 visitors and both programs and accompanying tutorials are being used at the University of Texas, Permian Basin, and Texas Tech. The programs were introduced to the public in a poster session at the 1999 National American Association of Geologists meeting in San Antonio, Texas. At that meeting it received an Honorable Mention (3rd place) in the Best Technical Poster Session Competition for Selected Academic Research Topics sponsored by Mobil.

The primary purpose for developing Visualizing Structural Geology was to provide to the academic community an easy to use and cost effective tool for teaching and learning the basic principles of structural geology. Both the program and interactive tutorial are accessible through the web site at no cost to the user.

contents | references