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Earthquake challenge for young engineers

Press release issued: 28 February 2005

Pupils from local schools will put their engineering skills to the test in an exciting challenge run by the University of Bristol's Earthquake Engineering Research Centre (EERC) and At-Bristol.

Pupils from local schools will put their engineering skills to the test in an exciting challenge run by the University of Bristol’s Earthquake Engineering Research Centre (EERC) and At-Bristol on March 1 and 2. 

88 pupils aged 13-14 from 16 secondary schools in the Bristol area will work in teams to design and construct small-scale model buildings using only MDF (medium density fibreboard), paper, string and glue.  The models will have to stand up to artificial earthquakes generated on the shaking-table in the University’s new BLADE (Bristol Laboratory for Advanced Dynamics Engineering) Earthquake and Large Structures Laboratory.

Since January, the teams have been preparing their materials and planning their designs using the University’s IDEERS (Introducing and Demonstrating Earthquake Engineering Research in Schools) to get advice on how engineers design earthquake-resistant buildings. 

On the day of the challenge, they will be given four hours to assemble their models in At-Bristol, the award winning science and discovery centre.  The students will then take their models to the University’s Civil Engineering Department to be tested to destruction on the BLADE shaking-table, which produces artificial earthquakes. 

At first the models will sway gently as they experience very small earthquakes.  Gradually, the magnitude of the earthquakes will be increased, shaking the models violently and eventually causing them to collapse.  Through this experience, students will learn how buildings behave during earthquakes and why some of them fail.

The three teams creating the most efficient models will win cash prizes for themselves and the team that comes first will win an equipment prize, sponsored by the British Nuclear Group, for their school. 

The competition is funded by the University and is being supported by the Bristol City Council Excellence in Cities scheme.

Dr Wendy Daniell, a research fellow in the University’s Department of Civil Engineering, who developed the challenge with Dr Adam Crewe, said: “The IDEERS project is an excellent way to show young people that engineering and engineering research are interesting and valuable career paths. 

“Particularly in the light of the recent tsunami disaster, this project shows the students how engineers can improve the built environment to protect people from the Earth’s natural hazards.

“It gives them an insight into some of the engineering research carried out at the University, and the opportunity to link the knowledge and skills they have learnt at school to real world challenges.”

The 16 schools taking part in the challenge are:

Whitefield Fishponds Community School; Ashton Park Secondary School; Speedwell Technology College; Henbury Secondary School; St Bede’s Catholic Secondary School; Fairfield High School; Cotham School; St Thomas More Catholic Secondary School; St Bernadette Catholic Secondary School; City Academy (St George); Bedminster Down Secondary School; Portway Community School; St Mary Redcliffe & Temple Ceva Secondary School; Brislington Enterprise College; Monks Park Secondary School; Hartcliffe Engineering Community College.


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