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Educator Resource: Field Trip

Cavern Excavation Challenge

Discover the geotechnical challenges of underground cavern excavation nearly a mile beneath the surface of the earth at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.
Middle School, High School
Time required
~1 hour

This engineering design challenge will encourage team building, elicit problem-solving skills, and require critical thinking as students learn about the excavation of 850,000 tons of rock to house the detectors for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) at the Sanford Underground Research facility-- 4,850 feet beneath the surface of the earth. What determines cavern shape? What factors do geotechnical engineers consider when planning an excavation? What can be done to ensure the long-term stability and safety of an excavated cavern deep underground? Students will discover the answers to these questions as they work to excavate and reinforce their own deep underground cavern models.