Pupils put to an earthquake challenge
Press release issued: 30 April 2008
Pupils from 14 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 April 30 and May 1.
Over 70 pupils aged 13-14 from 14 secondary schools in the Bristol area will work in teams to design and construct small-scale model buildings using only MDF (medium density fibre) board, paper, string and glue. The models will have to stand up to artificial earthquakes generated on the shaking-table in the University's Earthquake and Large Structures laboratory.
Since March, the teams have been preparing their materials and planning their designs using the University's IDEERS (Introducing and Demonstrating Earthquake Engineering Research in Schools) website (www.ideers.bris.ac.uk) 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 at the At-Bristol science centre. The students will then take their models to the University's Civil Engineering Department to be tested to destruction on the BLADE (Bristol Laboratory for Advanced Dynamics Engineering) Earthquake Laboratory 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 of 1st team - £100; 2nd team - £60 and 3rd team - £40.
The competition is funded by the University of Bristol's Widening Participations and is run in collaboration with At-Bristol and Bristol City LEA gifted and talented strand.
Dr Wendy Daniell, a research fellow in the University's Department of Civil Engineering and who developed the challenge with Dr Adam Crewe, said: "The IDEERS project, now in its sixth year, has become a firm fixture on the school calendar. With disasters from landslides, floods and earthquakes frequently in the news, the project shows the students the work that engineers can do to protect people from the Earth's natural hazards and that civil engineering is an interesting and valuable career.
"The recent earthquakes in Lincolnshire and Folkstone have also demonstrated that we do have significant earthquakes in the UK, and that Earthquake Engineering is relevant in the UK too, to protect important structures such as nuclear installations and large dams.
"By doing research for the challenge, building their designs, and seeing their model buildings tested, the students are able to link the knowledge and skills they have learnt at school to real challenges worldwide and in the UK."
Shelley Dewhurst, Explore-at-Bristol Learning Communicator, added: "You might think earthquakes are rare in Britain, but we have 20 to 30 mild ones each year. This challenge is a fun and exciting way to get students thinking about physics and engineering. The University of Bristol has a world-class earthquake engineering research centre and working with them will really give the students an insight into the world-wide challenge of creating quake-proof buildings."
Further informationThe 14 schools taking part in the challenge are:
Bedminster Down Secondary School; Brislington Enterprise College; Bristol Brunel Academy; The City Academy; Fairfield High School; Filton High School; Hartcliffe Engineering Community College; Hengrove Community Arts College; John Cabot Academy; Monks Park Secondary School; Redland Green School; Ridings High School; St Bernadettes Secondary School; Whitefield Fishponds Community School.