Development of Earthquake Engineering Curriculum for High School Students Using Low-Cost Shake Tables

By Lelli Van Den Einde


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Development of Earthquake Engineering Curriculum for High School Students Using Low-Cost Shake Tables

A report by the National Academy of Engineering in 2010 states that engineering is a critical component to developing a community and workforce that understands the technical nature of the manmade world. Researchers believe that engineering education will be greatly enhanced when engineering literacy is clearly defined, informal engineering education programs are integrated into the K-12 curriculum, and engineering-focused schools are supported . Because of technological developments in society and the realization that engineering promotes problem-solving and project-based learning, recent steps have been taken to integrate engineering and technology into the K-12 classroom.

This paper describes the development of earthquake engineering curriculum for high school students with the overarching objective of exposing and ultimately recruiting students into the engineering field. The curriculum was based off of activities and projects that were originally developed for the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) “When Disaster Strikes: Earthquake Engineering” cluster at UC San Diego, which utilizes a state-of-the-art instructional shake table to test the dynamics of structures. To develop curriculum that is easily implemented and more broadly disseminated into K-12 schools, the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) has created a low-cost shake table solution. The earthquake engineering modules developed and described in this paper leverage the low-cost shake table. The ultimate goal is to provide to the K-12 community with an “engineering” package that could be broadly distributed and implemented in high school programs. The materials include lectures, instructions and a list of materials to build the low-cost shake table, materials to develop the demonstrations and projects that utilize the shake table, and teacher/student documentation including assessment tools.

To ensure curriculum development was aligned with state standards and appropriate for high school implementation, two high schools in San Diego piloted the engineering activities and assessment tools in their classrooms. The results from formative and summative assessments that were gathered to improve the curriculum, documentation, and implementation details are described. Furthermore, a teacher development workshop was recently hosted to train local high school teachers on how to implement the modules into their own courses, providing yet another opportunity to do formative and summative assessments of the material and documentation before placing the modules in the NEESAcademy ( for broader adoption.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Lelli Van Den Einde (2014), "Development of Earthquake Engineering Curriculum for High School Students Using Low-Cost Shake Tables,"

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