Document Type


Publication Date

June 2013

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

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A consortium of American universities is involved in earthquake engineering practice and research. Each campus of the consortium participates in outreach and education activities for the local schools and the public. One campus of the consortium, which operates earthquake field sites, designed a K-12 activity called “Make Your Own Earthquake” (MYOE). MYOE involves setting up earthquake field equipment (seismic instruments, data loggers, and computers) in a classroom. Children jump for 10 seconds, see their earthquake trace live on a computer screen and then take home a printed copy of their personal earthquake. Software was developed specifically for this activity. MYOE is used as part of a presentation on plate tectonics and seismicity and also as a station in a science fair. In this activity, students (and their families) engage with earthquake practitioners and explore topics of acceleration, ground motion, building vibrations, geology, and tectonics. Students really enjoy 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 is small, lightweight, and inexpensive. MYOE software is free and downloads easily from the internet. Through outreach efforts, many more teachers and schools are able to run MYOE on their own. With the introduction of the new sensor, other campuses in the earthquake engineering consortium have developed sophisticated activities for Make Your own Earthquake that align with state science standards. The consortium shares educational materials through a central website and K-12 teaching modules are available to the public. Some examples of the use of the new 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 source One campus of the consortium has designed a version of Make Your Own Earthquake that is a stand-alone exhibit in a science museum. The installation includes an instrumented permanent platform for jumping and a touch screen monitor for displaying the earthquake. In the curriculum exchange, we will demonstrate Make Your Own Earthquake on a laptop computer, exhibit videos of the new museum installation and other MYOE activities, and provide links to where the resources can be downloaded. Photographs of Make Your Own Earthquake Students watching while a classmate makes her own earthquake. Students proudly displaying their earthquakes.


© 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. This article originally appeared in the proceedings of the 2013 ASEE Annual Conference, and can also be found online at
Conference SessionCEIII WrapupPaper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.