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Curriculum Exchange: Visualization Tools and Online Courses for Teaching about Earthquakes

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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

23.357.1 - 23.357.8



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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 is also 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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Curriculum Exchange: Visualization Tools and Online Courses for Teaching about EarthquakesAs part of a national consortium of universities practicing and doing research in earthquakeengineering, our site has developed several videos for use in outreach and education.Visualization tools are extremely useful when teaching about how earthquakes shake the groundand the response of buildings to that shaking. Here we present videos that are targeted to specificaudiences: (1) Animations of the response of two model buildings to two earthquakes are targeted at grade 6-16 students. The videos were created with data recorded on these test structures from the two earthquakes. The two events were both located directly below the site and had magnitudes M3.1 and M3.6. Animation of the structures was created with Blender (, an open source 3D content creation suite. The animation shows distinct resonances of the structures and seismic wave arrivals are clearly visible. (2) One of the model buildings has a shaker mounted on the underside of its roof. This shaker is a live experiment that runs nightly. We present animation of the vibration of the model building to the shaker experiment (more on this, below). (3) Visualization Services group at the San Diego Supercomputer Center created an animation of the ground excitation at the site from a M4.1 earthquake. Using data recorded in boreholes, the animation clearly shows the amplification of the earthquake signal as it approaches the ground surface. These visualizations created from actual earthquake data provide new insight into ground and structural response to strong shaking. The animations are available on the consortium website and are used as teaching tools for practitioners, K-12 students, and college-level engineering courses. (4) In the summer of 2012, three student interns produced “A Case Study of Earthquake Damage and Repair.” This is a film of the earthquake history a small city in California. In the film, original photographs of earthquake damage are shown along with contemporary views of these buildings. Earth science is part of the 6th grade framework for curriculum in California. This video is available to 6th-grade teachers in California, along with a student workbook. (5) We also present a demonstration of a teaching module for freshman-level college physics and earthquake engineering students. Students are able to log on live to an earthquake site and run the shaker experiment on the model building. After the completion of the experiment, the data from the experiment is stored for the students’ use in homework assignments. The presentation is a demonstration of the live experiment that runs over the internet.

Seale, S. H., & Anagnos, T. (2013, June), Curriculum Exchange: Visualization Tools and Online Courses for Teaching about Earthquakes Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19373

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