Students learn about the types of seismic waves produced by earthquakes and how they move the Earth. The dangers of earthquakes are presented as well as the necessity for engineers to design structures for earthquake-prone areas that are able to withstand the forces of seismic waves. Students learn how engineers build shake tables that simulate the ground motions of the Earth caused by seismic waves in order to test the seismic performance of buildings.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- Colorado: Science
- b. Describe for various waves the amplitude, frequency, wavelength, and speed (Grade 8)  ...show
- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- 5. Choose trigonometric functions to model periodic phenomena with specified amplitude, frequency, and midline.★ (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Describe waves using appropriate vocabulary: amplitude, crest, trough, wavelength, frequency.
- Describe the relationship between the wavelength and frequency of a wave.
- Explain the different types of seismic waves and how they move the Earth.
- Explain the role of shake tables for engineers who design structures to withstand the motions caused by seismic waves.
Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers
|amplitude:||Looking at a diagram of a sine wave, amplitude is the height measured from the center or rest position.|
|body wave:||A seismic wave that travels through the Earth rather than across its surface.|
|crest:||Looking at a diagram of a sine wave, the crest is the highest point in each wave cycle.|
|engineer:||A person who applies her/his understanding of science and math to creating things for the benefit of humanity and our world.|
|epicenter:||The point on the surface of the Earth directly above where an earthquake occurs.|
|frequency:||The number of wave cycles in a given amount of time. Frequency is commonly measured in hertz (Hz), which tells how many waves occur in 1 second.|
|Love wave:||A surface seismic wave that cause horizontal shifting of the Earth during an earthquake.|
|P-wave:||A seismic pressure wave that travel through the body of the Earth. The fastest of all seismic waves.|
|parallel:||Having the same direction. For example, on a striped shirt, the stripes are parallel.|
|perpendicular:||Meeting at a right (90 degree) angle.|
|Rayleigh wave:||A surface seismic wave generated by the interaction of P-waves and S-waves at the surface of the Earth that move with a rolling motion.|
|Richter scale:||The Richter magnitude scale provides a measure of the intensity of earthquakes on a 1 to 10 (base-10 logarithmic) scale. An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger and corresponds to an energy release of about 32 times greater than one that measures 4.0. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richter_magnitude_scale|
|S-wave:||A shear or transverse body seismic wave, with motion perpendicular to the direction of wave propagation.|
|seismic wave:||A wave of energy that travels through the Earth as a result of an earthquake.|
|shake table:||A device for shaking structural models or building components. The movement simulates the ground motions of earthquakes. Also called a shaking table.|
|surface wave:||A seismic wave that travels across the surface of the Earth as opposed to through it. Surface waves usually have larger amplitudes and longer wavelengths than body waves, and they travel more slowly than body waves.|
|trough:||The lowest point in each wave cycle.|
|wave:||A disturbance that travels through space or time, usually by the transfer of energy.|
|wavelength:||The length of each wave cycle; the distance between one crest and the next crest.|
- Shake it Up! Engineering for Seismic Waves - Students design and build their own shake tables to test and improve model buildings made of toothpicks and marshmallows before the structures undergo a simulated "real" earthquake challenge.
- Engineering & Waves: Seismic Waves Presentation (pptx)
- Engineering & Waves: Seismic Waves Presentation (pdf)
- Engineering & Waves: Seismic Waves PPT Worksheet (doc)
- Engineering & Waves: Seismic Waves PPT Worksheet (pdf)
- Waves, Waves, Waves Quiz (doc)
- Waves, Waves, Waves Quiz (pdf)
- Waves, Waves, Waves Quiz Answers (doc)
- Waves, Waves, Waves Quiz Answers (pdf)
- Earthquake Destruction (48-second video) (wmv)
- Earthquake Waves (2:50-minute video) (wmv)
- Earthquake Shake Table Rocks Building (2:51-minute video) (wmv)
- World's Largest Earthquake Shake Table in Japan (2:27-minute video) (wmv)
Lesson Extension Activities
Additional Multimedia Support
Kurczy, Stephen, Leigh Montgomery and Elizabeth Ryan. "Chile Earthquake Facts: Chile vs. Haiti, in Numbers: Chile earthquake facts continue to roll in and provide glaring comparisons with the quake that devastated Haiti in January." Published March 2, 2010. The Christian Science Monitor. Accessed October 4, 2011. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/0302/Chile-earthquake-facts-Chile-vs.-Haiti-in-numbers
Largest and Deadliest (World) Earthquakes by Year,1990-2011. Last modified April 13, 2011. US Geological Society, US Department of the Interior. Accessed October 4, 2011. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/byyear.php
World's Largest Earthquake Shake Table Test in Japan. Simpson Strong-Tie Company, Inc. Accessed April 20, 2011. (Article and a five-minute video show a full-scale seven-story wood-framed condominium tower being tested on world's largest shake table in July 2009, where it survived a 7.5 magnitude earthquake simulation with minor damage) http://www.strongtie.com/about/research/capstone.html?source=hpnav
Carleigh Samson, Stephanie Rivale, Denise W. Carlson
© 2010 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: August 31, 2015