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Alaskan students monitor earthquake activity with new devices

Alaska Seismology in Schools program currently in three schools, plans to expand
The Alaska Seismology in Schools program is being partly paid for with award funding.
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A new program is bringing seismometer devices to Alaskan schools to teach students about earthquakes.

The Alaska Seismology in Schools program is being partly paid for with award funding from UAF undergraduate student and Alaska Earthquake Center Outreach Specialist Gabriel Low.

“I guess it started as an idea, a dream,” Low said.

Low said that the program provides schools with seismometers that provide seismogram and spectrogram readings from a company called Raspberry Shake. The seismogram shows the motion of the ground over a period of time and the spectrogram shows the intensity and of those motions at different frequencies.

Each classroom can even look at data from other devices — including those in other schools — over the internet. The Raspberry Shake devices are based on the internet and do not require any additional software.

“It was a game changer in educational seismology,” Low said.

The students who have been using Raspberry Shake devices for some time at Seward High School, Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat School in Quinhagak, and West Anchorage High School can see thousands of connected devices to compare data.

The students initially test the Raspberry Shake devices by jumping to make their own “stomp quake.” Students stay very still to let the seismograph readings wind down, and then they jump around so they can watch the Raspberry Shake pick up their movement.

One of the program’s first devices was sent to Elijah Dorsey’s classroom in Quinhagak. Dorsey said his students don’t generally feel many quakes.

“Since my kids aren’t from a city, for those who do want to go to college, or who do want to go to trade school or any of those routes that are going to take them away from here and our tundra, I want to make sure that they know, hey, here is something that is not necessarily what you’ve experienced, but is a real thing that people elsewhere have to worry about,” Dorsey said.

Seismologist and Cartographer for the Alaska Earthquake Center Lea Gardine said that their mission is to improve research, monitoring and public engagement in Alaska to build resilience for earthquakes and tsunamis.

“They’re going to be the future decision makers in their communities, and the more they understand now — not just how to look at the waveforms that that are recorded but how that fits into their communities — is vital to being prepared in the future,” Gardine said.

Low said the program has been hugely successful and that the students are really engaging with the data. Currently, there are 10 sites around the state, with plans to add additional Raspberry Shake devices in more classrooms.

Students can join the new Shake Ambassador Club to meet online with other students from all over the state. In the meetings, they discuss what their devices have picked up. The club is meant give the kids a chance at leadership.

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