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NEES Community Contributions

Throughout the life of the NSF NEES award, NEES researchers and outreach coordinators regularly uploaded engaging curricula and learning activities for STEM educators on the NEEShub, in the NEESacademy.

In fact, NEES laboratories hosted and provided a wide array of educational resources, from public forums, to museum displays, to training for practicing engineers. For instance the University of California Berkeley collaborated with the California Academy of Sciences to provide K-12 resources for teaching seismic isolation concepts.

Below find more examples of the wide variety of EOT resources offered by NEES research lab sites.

NEES at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

In January 2014, NEES at UCLA collaborated with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) and multiple other organizations to host the Northridge 20 Symposium commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake. Attendees included more than 600 people from the earthquake engineering research community, emergency planning officials, state and local government representatives, and industry professionals. This diverse group came together for a cross-disciplinary discussion of lessons learned from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which devastated parts of Los Angeles. Participants explored new ways to protect urban areas against earthquake damage and pledged to continue discussion of earthquake preparedness and response. The meeting resulted in a Summary Report that serves as the foundation for a forthcoming white paper that will detail prioritized recommendations and an action plan for implementing the necessary changes.

Also at UCLA, the annual NEES at UCLA Summer Intern Program brought together a range of student-interns from multiple educational levels, including local high schools and community college students, university students from the NEES REU program and the UCLA engineering department, as well as visiting student researchers. For six summers, this workforce development program enabled engineering students to develop significant field skills. Many participating interns continued their engineering studies in graduate school.

NEES at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR)

One of the more prominent EOT projects for the team at NEES at UNR was the creation of the Make Your Own Earthquake (MYOE) exhibit cart for outreach to UNR lab visitors and the MYOE exhibit for the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum. This 67,000 square-foot children’s science museum in Reno receives 155,000 visitors each year. Since the NEES MYOE exhibit opened at the Discovery Museum in September of 2012, more than 100,000 visitors (children and adults) have experienced this interactive exhibit.

The MYOE exhibit, targeted at the K-12 audience, captures and displays on a computer screen the vibration time-history, a kind of seismogram, generated by children jumping up and down on a platform instrumented with earthquake-sensing equipment. The goal of the activity is to show kids the types of waves generated in an earthquake and how these ground motions are measured. The seismogram may be printed for the child to take home.

NEES at Cornell University

NEES at Cornell in partnership with the Ithaca-based Sciencenter developed a free-choice learning experience focused on the science of earthquakes and hazard mitigation. The Sciencenter collaborated with NEES staff at Cornell, Oregon State, and UC Santa Barbara to create the popular When the Earth Shakes traveling museum exhibit.

This interactive, 1,400 square-foot traveling exhibit includes an instrumented platform for kids to jump up and down and make their own earthquakes (shown to the left), a shake table kiosk for building and testing structures, a tsunami wave tank, and an interactive display about NEES outcomes.

NEES at Cornell helped market the exhibit to science museums across the U.S. The When the Earth Shakes exhibit has appeared in Chico, California, in Concord, New Hampshire, in Chisholm, Minnesota and will remain in Tyler, Texas through summer 2015. The exhibit is scheduled to appear in Casper, Wyoming starting fall 2015.

To-date, the 50,000 visitors have experienced NEES at Cornell’s traveling exhibit -- a mix of children ages 0-17 and adults. This exhibit has the potential to reach between 600,000 and 1 million people every year.

NEES at University of California Berkeley

A big focus for educators at the NEES at Berkeley site was to provide educational opportunities for the City of Oakland’s K-12 schools. Their goal was to introduce STEM concepts and earthquake engineering to schools with large percentages of underrepresented minorities.

For example, NEES at Berkeley teamed up with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) to offer a multi-faceted earthquake engineering program for elementary and middle school-aged students. The program integrated well with California’s science standards for 4th and 6th graders, whom the NEES educators were targeting. Specifically, the program consisted of a classroom lecture with demonstrations, a classroom kit for building models (see examples above) and a manually operated shake table for testing them, plus a field trip to the NEES at Berkeley laboratory.

As a capstone, a final classroom lecture by a UC Berkeley earthquake engineering student reinforced the connection between classroom activities and research in the NEES lab. In that activity, students used the more sophisticated NEES instructional shake table and "damage report" worksheets to record damage to their structures, calculate the hypothetical "cost" of the damage, and draw conclusions about how they would improve future designs to ensure better earthquake performance.

Details on other NEES at Berkeley K-12 education and outreach programs are available on the here.

NEES at Oregon State University (OSU)

NEES at OSU developed numerous hands-on EOT activities, and one of the most popular was the Tsunami Structure Challenge for secondary schools and college engineering students. The goal is to introduce young people to engineering and excite them about tsunami damage mitigation research.

On a field trip to the NEES at OSU OH Hinsdale Wave Research Lab, students design and build wave-resistant model structures. The students place their models in the wave tank where they’re subjected to small-scale tsunamis. In 2014 alone, about 1,000 Oregonian students participated in this activity.

To share their message with an even bigger audience, educators at OSU built a transportable wave tank for use at large-scale outreach events, such as the annual Discover Engineering Family Day in Washington, DC. For these occasions, OSU trained and deployed “NEES Ambassadors,” college undergraduates from Howard University and Morgan State University.

Through the Discover Engineering Family Days, not only did NEES at OSU educate thousands of children and their families about engineering and tsunami mitigation, they trained more than 50 minority students with important skills for entering the STEM workforce.

NEES at University of California Santa Barbara

Educators at UC Santa Barbara developed and refined the extremely popular Make Your Own Earthquake (MYOE) activity, the goal of which is to raise awareness of earthquake mechanics and safety among primary school children.

In the MYOE activity children jump up and down to generate “seismic” waves and activate an accelerometer that’s connected to a computer. The resulting time history, a kind of seismogram, appears on the computer screen enabling children to see and understand earthquake motions and their measurements. The time histories may be printed for children to take home.

The activity was so popular that educators at UCSB were invited to develop a stand-alone kiosk installation of the MYOE exhibit at the Santa Barbara

MYOE is easily replicated in a classroom as it requires only a low-cost accelerometer and a computer. Teachers may access instructions for re-creating the MYOE activity on the NEEShub.

NEES at University of Minnesota

One of the K-12 activities developed and deployed at NEES at Minnesota was the model Plexiglas house. Used atop an instructional shake table, the clear model gives children a basic understanding of selected earthquake engineering concepts. Kids discover ways to protect their environment from earthquake damage by using structural bracing. By shaking clear structures with and without braces, kids learn the effects of bracing on buildings, nonstructural elements, and building contents.

Based on the success of this NEES at Minnesota activity, NEEScomm commissioned and sent out 9 Plexiglas houses for other NEES sites to use with instructional shake tables to demonstrate seismic bracing principles.

NEES at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Faculty at RPI received funding from NSF’s Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM, or TUES Program, which enabled the development of a unique, long-distance collaboration with Southern Methodist University and the University of North Carolina Charlotte. The team of educators developed a remote geotechnical engineering course with credits applicable to all three colleges. The Remote Experimental Soils for undergraduates was offered during the 2011 and 2012 school years.

The recorded videos were shared among teachers and students from SMU, RPI, and UNCC at the NEESacademy website. The course provided students at three campuses (SMU, RPI, and UNCC) with new educational tools for better understanding of various theoretical geotechnical engineering concepts.

NEES at University of California Davis

A primary goal for educators at the NEES at UC Davis site was to partner with the Geotechnical Graduate Student Society (GGSS) on the UC Davis campus to support both outreach and student development.

NEES at Davis inspired graduate students to participate in community outreach activities and trained these students in educational “best practices,” such as teaching diverse age groups and using effective assessment methods. With students engaged, NEES at Davis was able to teach earthquake engineering and centrifuge concepts to a broad section of K-12 and professional groups in a range of outreach activities.

NEES at Davis engaged about 15 GGSS graduate students every year in volunteer outreach activities, about 75 students over a 5-year period. The assessment debriefings helped them increase effectiveness with each event. Graduate students report being inspired by participating in these activities and are more likely to participate in outreach and community service activities once they enter the workforce.

The GSSS and NEES at UC Davis have averaged about 12 events involving over 250 people per year at the centrifuge facility. Some examples of these numerous activities are posted on the NEES at Davis website.

NEES at University of Texas at Austin

NEES at Texas educators integrated their large mobile shakers such as T-Rex and Thumper in the soil dynamics class, data processing class, and geophysical exploration method class at the University of Texas at Austin. Each year about 45 graduate students at the University of Texas attended these classes and gained a hands-on experience in using large mobile shakers for site characterization and learned how the large mobile shakers were utilized in research and industrial projects.

Field camps. NEES at Texas also participated in geophysical field camps hosted by the University of Houston and Boise State University. About 50 graduate and undergraduate students participated in the camps.

Workshops for teachers. In partnership with Texas Earth and Space Science Revolution (TXESS Revolution), in 2011 NEES at Texas presented a 3-day seismology workshop for 9 middle and high school science teachers. (Photos: above) This was held in conjunction with an “Engineering Geology” class taken by 6 engineering graduate students. Graduate engineering students were teamed up with school teachers for the field tests. One of goals of the workshop was to assist teachers in developing and enhancing their course materials based on what they learned in this workshop. Engineering students provided the engineering flavor to the course materials developed by the teachers. Learn more about this Geophysics and seismology workshop for high school teachers on the NEES at Texas website.

NEES at University of Illinois

NEES at Illinois developed 4 sets of educational videos on the effects of shear and torsion, a common cause of earthquake damage to bridges and other concrete structures. The film footage is based on earthquake engineering research that took place at Illinois, a project investigating the failure of concrete columns.

The educators at Illinois created videos aimed at practitioners, upper division and graduate students, college freshmen, and K-12 audiences. Many of the videos have been viewed over 450 times.

NEES at University of California San Diego

Among many EOT projects, NEES at San Diego has developed an extensive K-12 curriculum based on the NEES instructional shake table. In collaboration with local high schools, NEES at San Diego piloted this shake table curriculum in two Project Lead The Way (PLTW) courses, “Principals of Engineering” and “Civil Engineering and Architecture”. PLTW is a national, non-profit organization that provides Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curricular programs for elementary, middle, and high schools across the U.S.

PLTW teachers at three San Diego high schools finalized the NEES at San Diego shake table curriculum by confirming assessment and documentation templates. The curriculum was then integrated into two PLTW 2014 summer training sessions for broader dissemination.

More than 4,700 schools across the country have adopted the PLTW curriculum. Having the NEES shake table curriculum adopted by PLTW will enable NEES at San Diego to reach thousands of high school students throughout the United States.

NEES at University at Buffalo (UB)

Each year, educators at the NEES at Buffalo site present Science Exploration Day, a STEM education event attended by hundreds of high school students from the western New York region. The goal of the event is to introduce the field of earthquake engineering to bright, college-bound teens and generally “tune them into science.”

In 2013, the event exposed more than 300 students to earthquake engineering and the workings of the UB-NEES Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL). Educators from NEES at Buffalo highlighted the research performed by the international community of civil, structural, and environmental engineers and described the efforts to develop engineering solutions to mitigate the threats posed by natural disasters. Graduate students and educators from NEES at Buffalo used educational shake tables and models to demonstrate how viscous dampers are used to mitigate earthquake damage in seismic design.

NEES at Lehigh University

For many years, NEES at Lehigh has hosted STEM undergraduates for the prestigious NEES REU program. Since 2006, the site has sponsored and trained more than 60 undergraduates in this intensive, 10-week program of earthquake engineering research. (Below: student research project poster) Many NEES at Lehigh REU alums have gone on to practice engineering, earn advanced degrees, or both.

NEES at Lehigh also is on the forefront of hybrid simulation (HS), a new, highly efficient experimental technique that marries computer processing to physical testing. In 2011, NEES at Lehigh researchers presented a two-day workshop in hybrid simulation and real-time hybrid simulation (RTHS) techniques. The workshop taught NEES research engineers advanced techniques for applying HS and RTHS in their experimental programs.