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Curriculum Exchange: “Make Your Own Earthquake”

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

CEIII Wrapup

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.358.1 - 23.358.9



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Paper Authors


Sandra Hull Seale UCSB

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Dr. Seale earned the B.S.E. in Civil Engineering from Princeton University in 1981, the S.M. in Civil Engineering from MIT in 1983, and the Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from MIT in 1985.
Dr. Seale is currently working as the Project Scientist and Outreach Coordinator for the Seismology Research Laboratory at UC Santa Barbara.

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Thalia Anagnos San Jose State University

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Dr. Thalia Anagnos is a professor in the General Engineering Department at San Jose State University, where she has taught since 1984. She also serves as the co-Leader of Education, Outreach, and Training for the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. Her research interests are in structural engineering, earthquake loss estimation and risk analysis, engineering education, and informal education.

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Lelli Van Den Einde University of California, San Diego

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Dr. Lelli Van Den Einde is a faculty lecturer (LPSOE) in the Department of Structural Engineering at UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering. Dr. Van Den Einde’s interest in teaching has influenced her current research efforts towards improving engineering education pedagogy through the use of technology in the classroom. She is involved in promoting academic integrity as a way to prepare our students to be ethical practicing engineers, and is the chair of the External Advisory Committee for the IDEA center, which promotes inclusion, diversity, excellence and advancement in engineering. She has conducted research in performance-based earthquake engineering and large-scale experimentation of reinforced concrete, FRP composite, and hybrid bridges.

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Curriculum Exchange: “Make Your Own Earthquake”A consortium of American universities is involved in earthquake engineering practice andresearch. Each campus of the consortium participates in outreach and education activities for thelocal schools and the public. One campus of the consortium, which operates earthquake fieldsites, designed a K-12 activity called “Make Your Own Earthquake” (MYOE). MYOE involvessetting up earthquake field equipment (seismic instruments, data loggers, and computers) in aclassroom. Children jump for 10 seconds, see their earthquake trace live on a computer screenand then take home a printed copy of their personal earthquake. Software was developedspecifically for this activity. MYOE is used as part of a presentation on plate tectonics andseismicity and also as a station in a science fair.In this activity, students (and their families) engage with earthquake practitioners and exploretopics of acceleration, ground motion, building vibrations, geology, and tectonics. Students reallyenjoy their physical participation in MYOE and often ask to repeat their “earthquake”.Two years ago, a new device became available that made MYOE portable and easy to use. Anew MEMS accelerometer with a USB port can plug into any laptop computer. The device issmall, lightweight, and inexpensive. MYOE software is free and downloads easily from theinternet. Through outreach efforts, many more teachers and schools are able to run MYOE ontheir own.With the introduction of the new sensor, other campuses in the earthquake engineeringconsortium have developed sophisticated activities for Make Your own Earthquake that alignwith state science standards. The consortium shares educational materials through a centralwebsite and K-12 teaching modules are available to the public. Some examples of the use of thenew sensor for teaching activities include • A shake table activity where students build small structures with K’NEX and test them • A shake table activity where students compete to build the strongest structure • An experiment where students examine how the amount of energy (amplitude) of a signal changes with distance from the sourceOne campus of the consortium has designed a version of Make Your Own Earthquake that is astand-alone exhibit in a science museum. The installation includes an instrumented permanentplatform for jumping and a touch screen monitor for displaying the earthquake.In the curriculum exchange, we will demonstrate Make Your Own Earthquake on a laptopcomputer, exhibit videos of the new museum installation and other MYOE activities, andprovide links to where the resources can be downloaded. Photographs of Make Your Own EarthquakeStudents watching while a classmate makes her own earthquake. Students proudly displaying their earthquakes.

Seale, S. H., & Anagnos, T., & Van Den Einde, L. (2013, June), Curriculum Exchange: “Make Your Own Earthquake” Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19371

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