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Make Your Own Earthquake: The Accelerometer

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The Accelerometer Introduction Acceleration is the change of movement. For example, if you are walking in the park at a speed of 3 miles per hour then you decide to start jogging at a speed of 5 mile per hour, we can say that you have accelerated from 3 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour. An accelerometer is a type of sensor that is used to measure acceleration. An earthquake accelerometer measures the change in movement of the ground in the event of an earthquake, and is typically located within 30-40 miles of regions that have histories of moderate and large magnitude earthquakes. When earthquake engineers design infrastructure that will be built in regions that have extensive earthquake histories, they use acceleration data to help them understand how buildings and bridges of various designs and sizes will respond to ground shaking. They engineer designs that are intended to mitigate damage due to moderate and large magnitude earthquakes. Make Your Own Earthquake (MYOE) The MYOE module is created to inform the K-12 community about the fundamentals of earthquake engineering using principles of physics, earth science, mathematics, and problem solving. Our modules are lesson plans that have been standardized to the Indiana State science and literacy standards. Many of our lessons will use QCN accelerometers that can be used for classroom demonstrations, data collection, and team projects. Our community is a growing community and we encourage you to submit ideas and suggest better ways to improve current lesson plans. Quake Catcher Network (QCN) You can obtain a QCN accelerometer from the Quake Catcher Network website. Check the website for more information, pricing, and availability. The NEES Acadamy currently host two software programs that display acceleration:

1.  Make Your Own Earthquake (MYOE)

This is a one dimensional display of the up/down direction  You can do a variety of activities with this accelerometer in your classroom. You can mount the accelerometer on a shake table or ground or any surface, and have your students jump to get a response. This can be a platform for discussing acceleration. View our lesson plans for more ideas.

2.  QCN (Live) Network Software

This software can be downloaded from You can use this software measures acceleration in three dimensions. It can also be used as a live earthquake accelerometer, that detects ground motion. Check the QCN website for more information. Other ways to obtain acceleration Software IPhone/Ipod/IPad and Droid Devices Many current "Smart" devices come equipped with an accelerometer. Because of this, software developers have created programs that display acceleration. Check your app store for  acceleration software. Laptops Many late model laptops come with an accelerometer. Check the QCN website for more details on how to download the QCN software on compatible laptops. Make Your Own Earthquake

Learning Objectives and Standards

Links to the National Science Standards and to individual State Science Standards are available by using this link:

Links and Resources

Here's a video of Hank Ratzesberger setting up MYOE at Monroe School: See attachments for other resources!

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Tenille Denise Medley (2011), "Make Your Own Earthquake: The Accelerometer,"

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