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Abstract

Students will learn data interpretation and about earthquakes through the use of the Quake Catcher Network (QCN) device and a gritted surface models fault slip.

Introduction

K-12 Earthquake Activity Teaching Modules

A Joint Project of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)

In the spring of 2011, NEES at the University of California Santa Barbara (NEES@UCSB) embarked on a project to develop a comprehensive set of teaching modules for K-12 students that would cover the basics of plate tectonics and earthquake dynamics. The idea for the project grew from the success of the "Make Your Own Earthquake" outreach activity developed by NEES@UCSB, which recently has included the use of the Quake Catcher Network MEMS accelerometer.

The UCSB site received a supplemental grant for Education, Outreach, and Training from NEES that provided funds for an undergraduate student to work on this project. Two NEES REU interns and a SCEC intern were also recruited, for a total of four students working cooperatively on the project over the summer of 2011. NEES@UCSB personnel served as mentors to the students and a Santa Barbara GATE science teacher was hired, through the NEES EOT grant, as a consultant to review the work. The students were asked to incorporate, as appropriate, the use of the QCN accelerometer and real earthquake data in the teaching modules. They were also asked to do a comprehensive survey of earthquake-related teaching materials currently available and to incorporate, with proper references, any of these materials into the new modules.

Over the course of the summer of 2011, the students met weekly with their mentor and the science teacher. In August, a group of local 4th - 6th grade students came to the UCSB campus and tested several of the earthquake activities. The summer interns presented their work at the NEES REU Young Researchers Symposium at UCSB in August and at the annual SCEC meeting in Palm Springs in September.

Personnel:

Jamison Steidl, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, NEES@UCSB Sandra Seale, Ph.D., Project Scientist and Outreach Coordinator, NEES@UCSB Carrie Garner, M.A., Gifted and Talented Education Teacher and Coordinator, Hope School District

Summer Undergraduate Interns:

Sean Allen, Civil Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno Heidi Pence, Civil Engineering, University of Michigan Joseph Trudeau, Geology, University of Wisconsin Hanna Vincent, Mechanical Engineering and Materials, MIT

Earthquake Activity Modules:

4th - 5th Grade: Fault Slip, Joseph Trudeau

[Be sure to click the "Docs and Attachments" tab to view and download attachments for this lesson such as handouts and worksheets.]

Earthquake Engineering Component

Learning Objectives and Standards

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

http://nees.org/education/for-teachers/k12-teachers#standards

California State Science Standards satisified;

4th Grade:

Investigation and Experimentation

1. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

2. Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.

a. Conduct multiple trials to test a prediction and draw conclusions about the relationships between predictions and results.

3. Construct and interpret graphs from measurements.

4. Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

5th Grade:

Investigation and Experimentation

1. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

2. Develop a testable question.

a. Plan and conduct a simple investigation based on a student-developed question and write instructions others can follow to carry out the procedure.

b. Identify the dependent and controlled variables in an investigation.

c. Identify a single independent variable in a scientific investigation and explain how this variable can be used to collect information to answer d question about the results of the experiment.

e. Select appropriate tools (e.g., thermometers, meter sticks, balances, and graduated cylinders) and make quantitative observations.

f. Record data by using appropriate graphic representations (including charts, graphs, and labeled diagrams) and make inferences based on those data.

g. Draw conclusions from scientific evidence and indicate whether further information is needed to support a specific conclusion.

h. Write a report of an investigation that includes conducting tests, collecting data or examining evidence, and drawing conclusions.

Material List

Materials Needed:

  • 4ft long wood 2x4.
  • Optional: Multiple boards to test multiple frictional surfaces. If you choose to do this you will also need different grit sand papers.
  • 6 extra-long rubber bands 7in (18cm). 4 are required and 2 are spares.
  • 2 bricks. 1 for the experiment and 1 spare plus the additional experiments section.
  • Meter stick. All measurements will be in SI units.
  • Wood glue.
  • Thin cord ~2ft long. Laundry line works.
  • 1 bag of play sand. This will be used to cover the board to create a frictional surface for the brick to slide along.
  • Quake Catcher Network (QCN) Device available at: http://qcn.stanford.edu/learning/requests.php#Purchase
    • The device plugs into a USB port on any computer and the program to run it is at http://qcn.stanford.edu/downloads/
    • The QCN device is $5 to purchase or free for underserved schools.
  • Computer to attach the QCN device and run the program.
  • Scale to measure the weight of the brick.

The materials can be purchased at any hardware store such as Menards, Home Depot, Orchard Supply, etc. The Long rubber bands can be purchased at an office supply store and the QCN device can be purchased at the website listed above. Total cost will be approximately $20.

Materials Needed for Multiple Groups:

  • 4ft long wood 2x4. 1 for each group.
    • Optional: Multiple boards to test multiple frictional surfaces. If you choose to do this you will also need different grit sand papers.
  • 5 extra-long rubber bands 7in (18cm). 4 are needed for the experiment and 1 is a spare.
  • 1 brick for each group. Have 1-2 extra bricks in case some break.
  • 1 Meter stick per group. All measurements will be in SI units.
  • Wood glue.
  • Thin cord ~2ft long in length per group. Laundry line works.
  • 1 bag of play sand. This will be used to cover the board to create a frictional surface for the brick to slide along.
  • 1 Quake Catcher Network (QCN) Device per group. Available at: http://qcn.stanford.edu/learning/requests.php#Purchase
    • The device plugs into a USB port on any computer and the program to run it is at http://qcn.stanford.edu/downloads/
    • The QCN device is $5 to purchase or free for underserved schools.
    • Optional-Multiple Groups: 1 per group
  • 1 computer to attach the QCN device and run the program per group. Multiple devices cannot be run from the same computer.
  • Scale to measure the mass of the brick.

Procedure

See pictures below for help.

1. Evenly spread a layer of glue on one side of the 2x4 and apply to the full length of the board.

2. Sprinkle a generous layer of sand over the glue to completely cover the board and let the board sit overnight to let the glue set.

3. When the glue dries, mark the length of the board in centimeters.

4. Strap 2 rubber bands around the brick like a harness.

5. Tie 2 rubber bands to the rubber bands around the brick.

6. Tie the other end of the rubber band a thin cord.

7. Tape the QCN device to the top center of the brick to record the "earthquakes" produced. The QCN device should be firmly planted so as to not slip. The x-axis marked on the QCN device should be parallel to the length of the brick and the y-axis should be perpendicular.

The bottom board has the glue with sand sprinkled over it. The top board has sand paper glued to it. This is used in the additional experiments section for comparing slip for the different frictional surfaces.

Overview:

This experiment shows that plate tectonics is complicated and the amount of fault slip is unpredictable (but larger for a larger stress applied to the fault). As tectonic plates are pushed together, they store energy that is released in an earthquake. Rocks that are thought of as rigid objects are in fact somewhat elastic. In this experiment, as the rubber band is stretched, the potential energy builds up and then is released as kinetic energy when the brick slips. Tectonic plates move at millimeters to centimeters a year and potential energy is stored at the major faults. The amount of energy released in a M5.5 earthquake is 1020ergs. The energy released by the 1946 atomic blast at Bikini Atoll was about 1019ergs (Bolt, 1993). An erg is a unit of energy for the work being done by a force of one dyne over a distance of one centimeter. A dyne is the force required to accelerate a mass of 1 gram at a rate of 1 centimeter per second squared (cm/s2). Ergs may not mean much to your students; the important thing to take away from this is that a M5.5 earthquake on the Richter scale releases more energy than the 1946 Bikini atomic bomb.

When the fault slips, the QCN device records the amplitudes of the accelerations. Acceleration amplitudes are used to determine the magnitude of the quake. The equation for calculating magnitude is complicated and is not included in the exercise, but seeing the amplitude of the accelerations generated by the earthquake gives a sense of the magnitude. You can also get the device to show accelerations by banging your fist on the table, but a brick slipping over a frictional surface better represents plate movement. The brick represents the earth's plates and the QCN device is the accelerometer.

Links and Resources

Vocabulary:

Amplitude (wave): The height of a wave or depth of a trough.

Dependent Variable: The variable being studied and expected to change with the independent variable. It is dependent of the independent variable. It answers the question of what is being observed.

Epicenter: The point on the Earth's surface above the focus hypocenter.

Fault: A planar break in the rock, along which motion can occur.

Focus or hypocenter: The point at which earthquakes occur. Can be a finite volume, or on a plane.

Hypothesis: Derived from the Greek word hypotithenai meaning to suppose or to put under. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for an observed phenomenon.

Independent Variable: Variable being tested or changed.

Kinetic Energy: The energy an object has due to its motion. A ball on the edge of a table has potential energy. A ball falling off the table has kinetic energy.

Lithosphere: The rigid outermost layer of the earth.

Liquefaction: Process of sand and soil behaving like a dense liquid rather than a solid during an earthquake. Water flows between the pores in the soil cause this natural phenomenon.

Magnitude: A measure of how large an earthquake is. As you move up the in magnitude for every unit magnitude you increase the energy output is about 32 times greater. So if you have an earthquake of M5.5 and another of M6.5, the M6.5 had 32 times the energy released in its event than the M5.5 earthquake. The amplitude of the earthquake waves increases by a factor of 10 as you move up the scale. This is often misquoted as magnitude increase by a factor of 10.

P and S Waves: Also known as primary and secondary waves. Body waves generated by an earthquake that arrive before the surface waves. The p (pressure) wave travels faster than the s (shear) wave.

Plate Tectonics: A model of the earth's lithosphere being divided into plates that move millimeters to centimeters a year.

Potential Energy: The energy an object has because of its position. A ball on the edge of a table has potential energy. A ball falling off the table has kinetic energy.

Seismogram: The record of seismic events.

Seismogram pendulum: Instrument that swings on a single axis to measure the amplitude of the shaking in that direction. During the earthquake the pendulum remains stationary while the rest of the instrument moves.

Seismograph: Instrument that records seismic vibrations.

Seismologist: A person that studies earthquakes, and the Earth's interior through wave propagation.

Seismology: The study of earthquakes, and the Earth's interior through wave propagation.

Surface waves: The waves generated from an earthquake travel along the surface of the Earth, as opposed to body waves, which travel through the Earth. Surface waves travel along the surface of the earth at a slower speed than the S waves. There are two types of surface waves: Rayleigh waves and Love waves.

Seismometer: Mass and transducer inside the seismograph.

Triangulation: Process of finding the epicenter of an earthquake by taking three seismograph stations and finding the distance the earthquake occurred from each station and where the three overlap is the epicenter.

Tsunami: A long ocean wave usually caused by sea-floor movements from an earthquake. Undersea landslides can also produce tsunamis, but these are usually smaller in scale. When tsunamis occur, they usually arrive in several waves and the first to hit the shore is not necessarily the largest.

Background:

Earthquakes release energy. As you move up the magnitude scale, for every unit increase in magnitude the energy output is about 32 times greater. If you compare an earthquake of M5.5 and another of M6.5, the M6.5 had 32 times the energy released in its event than the M5.5 earthquake. The amplitude of the earthquake waves increases by a factor of 10 for each unit increase in magnitude. This is often misquoted as magnitude increase by a factor of 10.

A single seismograph pendulum only works in one direction. To get a complete picture of the earthquake, an instrument needs to record motions on 3 axes. Seismographs have three instruments measuring ground motion in the vertical and two horizontal directions. By studying records from a large area, a seismologist can determine the location and the magnitude of the earthquake.

History:

A few examples of historical large earthquakes in the United States are the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and the 1964 Prince William Sound Earthquake in Alaska. These quakes demonstrate that the magnitude of the quake is not the only factor in generating damage.

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is still under investigation. The magnitude of the quake is disputed. The moment magnitude (Mw) was about an 8.0 (de Boer and Sanders 2005). The casualty report is also debated and the initial report cited only 375 deaths. More recent estimates of the San Francisco area alone had a death toll of more than 2,500 people. The fire that ensued damaged more property than the quake itself by almost a factor of 10 (Bolt 1993), (de Boer and Sanders 2005).

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake also took place in is also referred to as the World Series Earthquake because it took place during the world series near San Francisco. The casualties in this quake were 63 dead and almost 4000 injured (Bolt 1993). At that time of day (early evening), people were in their homes rather than in the areas that would have caused more casualties. Most homes were constructed of wood, which holds up to earthquakes fairly well. The quake had a surface wave magnitude of 7.1 (Bolt 1993). As in the 1906 San Francisco quake, fires broke out and local fire departments were equipped to handle these fires and were able to control them.

The 1964 Prince William Sound earthquake in Alaska had 130 casualties with only 9 being from the shaking of the earthquake (Bolt 1993). The rest of the damage came from two secondary results of earthquakes: tsunamis and liquefaction.

Earthquake Prediction:

Why is it that Southern California is in the news all the time talking about the Big One coming? The answer is not simple and is a matter of probability. California has a 99.7% chance of having a M6.7 or greater earthquake in the next 30 years. The probabilities are different for different sections of the San Andreas Fault (Figure 3). The San Andreas Fault is a strike-slip fault that is capable of producing these large events.

The Earth's tectonic plates are always in motion and they move at millimeters to centimeters per year. Faults that are locked allow tectonic stress to build up over time and then release the stress suddenly and violently in an earthquake. For this reason, faults that have had a large rupture within the recent geologic past have not had enough time to build up large stresses, so the probability of having another large event is low. Faults that have not had a large slip in the recent geologic past have a higher tectonic stress and therefore a higher probability of producing a large earthquake. This is the case with the San Andreas Fault, which is the fault most likely to produce a significant earthquake in California. The southern section of the fault has the highest probability of producing a large earthquake because that section of the fault has gone the longest in recent history without producing a significant event (Figure 4).

Figures:

Figure 1: QCN device.

Figure 2: Screen shot of QCN device amplitudes.

Figure 3. The colors on this California map represent the UCERF probabilities of having a nearby earthquake rupture (within 3 or 4 miles) of magnitude 6.7 or larger in the next 30 years. As shown in the table, the chance of having such an event somewhere in California exceeds 99%. The 30-year probability of an even more powerful quake of magnitude 7.5 or larger is about 46%. (2007 Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities (WGCEP 2007)

Figure 4. The dashed line of this California map is the boundary between northern and southern California used in the UCERF study. As shown in the table, the 30-year probability of an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 or larger is higher in the southern half of the state (37%) than in the northern half (15%). The colors represent the same local probabilities shown in Figure 1. (2007 Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities (WGCEP 2007)

References:

California Standards (2003). Science Content Standards for California Public Schools Kindergarten Through Grade Twelvehttp://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/sciencestnd.pdf (July 6, 2011)

Bolt, Bruce A. (1993). "Earthquakes", W.H. Freeman and Company, New York.

de Boer, Jelle and Sanders, Donald Theodore (2005). "Earthquakes In Human History", Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

2007 Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities (WGCEP 2007)."Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF)" http://www.scec.org/ucerf/ (August 16, 2011)

Learning modules in this series:

Assessment

NAME:_____________________________

Worksheet 1: Fault Slip

- Before beginning each trial, let the QCN device return to ambient background noise. This can take up to 60 seconds. Slowly and steadily pull the cord back 1cm.

- Pull the cord another centimeter and pause. Keep pulling back the cord 1 centimeter at a time until the brick slips. On the computer, take a screenshot of the earthquake when it reaches the middle of the screen. That way the ongoing vibrations will also be in the picture. It might be a good idea at this point to change the name of each screenshot so that it is easier to refer to later.

- Write on the board the displacement distance in millimeters and the number of centimeters the brick was pulled back to cause the slip. The displacement is the distance the brick has moved in millimeters. The x, y, and z axes (horizontals and vertical) are read off the QCN screen. This is the amplitude of the acceleration. The screen automatically adjusts the vertical scale so the max and min can be read off the screen with more accuracy. See figure 2 on page 15 as an example.

1. As tension is slowly increased on the cord, how do you expect the brick to slip? Please explain.

2. Now that you have run the experiment, if you where to run it again do you think the amount of slip would be the same? Interval? Intensity?

Worksheet 2 Pre Lab for Teachers:

1. After running experiment 1, break the students into groups.

2. Hand out worksheet 2 and let the students go over the questions.

3. In their groups have them answer questions 1-4.

4. For homework that night, have your students collect the material they will need to test their hypothesis.

5. For class the next day, have the students come up one group at a time and state to the class what their experiment is and what they came up with for questions 1-4. In front of the class have them run their experiment. It is okay if their experiment fails. The point of experimenting is to test a variable that is unknown.

6. Example Experiments:

(1) If you glue different grit sand paper to a board, how will the slip of the brick differ between the different grits of sand paper?

(2) Using different grit sand paper, do you get an average longer slippage with higher grit or lower grit sand paper?

(3) What effect does using different surfaces have on the slip rate (i.e. table surface, wax paper, stretched fabric)? How does this compare to the original experiment of sand glued to the board? Why does the sand offer a more realistic scenario of mimicking fault slip? "In this experiment students should note that as the friction is reduced the slip becomes more consistent with shorter time intervals. Faults scrape, grind, and bang into each other offering lots of resistance which is why using sand paper is the best choice in mimicking this complex system."

(4) Using screenshots from the QCN device, compare the maximum accelerations of 10 earthquakes. Compare all three axes of the 10 earthquakes produced.

NAME:________________________________

Worksheet 2: Design Your Own Experiment.

1. Come up with an experiment to test.  What are you trying to answer?

2. What is your Hypothesis?

3. What is your predicted outcome?

4. What is the dependent variable and what is the variable being tested?

5. How will the variable you choose be used to collect information?

6. Make a chart of the information you collected from the experiment.

7. Graph the data you collected.

8. Does this data support your prediction? Why or why not?

9. Write a short report on the experiment talking about your method, hypothesis, results and conclusion.

Extensions

Scaling

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Sandra Seale; Joe Paul Trudeau; NEES EOT (2011), "Fault Slip - Grades 4-5," http://nees.org/resources/3839.

    BibTex | EndNote

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