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Become an Engineer

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Build a structure to survive a wave.


Earthquake Engineering Component

Waves can hurt or kill humans, as well as damage structures like houses, stores, and power plants. The goal of an engineer is to save lives and prevent damage to buildings. Engineers use their creative thinking abilities just as much as their math and science skills Using a cupful of Lego(r) bricks, can you design and create a house that will withstand the crushing forces of a tsunami? Do you think you will make a good engineer?

Material List

  • Legos(r), variety of shapes, including people
  • Wave tank


As part of this activity, we will be building structures to protect a Lego(r) person from a wave.

  • Each participant will be limited to one scoop of Legos(r) with which to build their structure, just as engineers are limited by time and money.
  • The structure can be no larger than 12 bricks wide and must at least 8 bricks high.
  •  The structure will be placed into the wave flume and tested against a wave.
  • Note that you also have a time limit of 5 to 8 minutes. Again, real-life engineers must work within specific timeframes and meet deadlines, and so must you!
  • The structure that you build should not only to be able to survive a wave in the wave flume without falling down, but also keep a Lego(r) person safe and dry. You can decide where to place the Lego person in your structure. Tsunami resistant structures are used around the world to provide tsunami shelters for the local population.


Things to think about

  • How strong will your structure be? Will it be stronger if you add another row of Legos to the walls? In what other ways can you reinforce your structure?
  • How tall should the building be? Remember, it must be at least 8 bricks high, but you can make it as tall as you want. Would the building be stronger is it ere taller or shorter?
  • Where will the Lego person be safest? At the top of the structure? Or somewhere else?
  • How do you think the building will react when it is hit by a wave? Which side of your building should be the strongest?
  • After your building has been tested in the wave flume, think about ways to make it better. If it fell apart, how could you make it stronger for the next time? If your building survived the wave and the lego person stayed dry, could you find a way to achieve tht result with fewer pieces?

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • NEES EOT (2012), "Become an Engineer,"

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