Academics & Faculty

UCLA Engineering Plans Earthquake Shake Akin to Northridge for Student Seismic Design Challenge on March 31


On March 31, an earthquakemeasuring magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale will shake student dormitories in Los Angeles. And if thebuilding architects find the shuddering eerily reminiscent of 1994's Northridgetemblor, that's because the movements from this simulated quake will be exactlythe same as that frightening natural disaster.

During the 2006 Pacific SouthwestRegional Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), studentswill have the chance to test out their scale-model dormitory buildings againstthe Northridge quake — as replicated by the recently completed "Shake Lab" atthe UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The annual student conference,which runs from March 30 to April 1, is being hosted by UCLA Engineering thisyear and will bring nearly 500 civil engineering undergraduates from SouthernCalifornia, Arizona and Nevadato Los Angelesto engage in tasks that include designing and building an earthquake-safebuilding, constructing and racing concrete canoes, and erecting a model steelbridge.

A key highlight of the conferenceis the relatively new seismic design challenge — or "Earthquake Shake" — forwhich teams from seven Californiaschools have been selected based on pre-submitted design proposals.

UCLA, CaliforniaPolytechnic StateUniversity, Pomona;California Polytechnic StateUniversity, San Luis Obispo; California StateUniversity, Los Angeles; San Diego State University;University of California,Irvine; and Universityof California, San Diego, all have student teams competingin the quake competition.

This year's seismic designchallenge is to build a three-story, scale-model wood dormitory that meetsspecific land size and cost requirements. All of the models will be tested onthe shake table with ground motions recorded during medium and largeearthquakes — with the large one this year mirroring the Northridge quake. Thewinning building will be the one that satisfies the pre-set design criteria,falls within cost parameters and emerges with the least amount of damage afterthe "big one" hits.

Teams from all of the universitieshave been preparing for the challenge since fall 2005. The students have hadfour months to complete their designs, from conception to execution.

"I've been involved in ASCE sincemy sophomore year, and I think it's really valuable to be part of theorganization," said Jerry Lee, a senior at UCLA Engineering and co-chair of theschool's seismic design event team. "The conference events give you practicalexperience. You learn these things in class, but a lot of it doesn't clickuntil you really try to build something."

"We're training future civilengineers to understand how buildings react in an earthquake, and in theprocess, the students also are having fun working with their peers," saidJonathan Stewart, UCLA civil and environmental engineering professor andadviser for the student chapter of ASCE, which is organizing the event.

The National ScienceFoundation-funded George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake EngineeringSimulation, or NEES, sponsors operation of the NEES@UCLA earthquake simulationfacility. NEES was created to promote better understanding of earthquakes andtheir effects, and is a shared national network of 15 experimental facilities.Collaborative resources shared by the sites aim to promote new discoveries inthe ways buildings, bridges, utility systems, coastal regions and naturalmaterials perform during seismic events.

Lab Director Bob Nigbor said,"Rarely do engineers have the ability to view the impact of a large quake on abuilding from start to finish as it happens, so this experience is invaluable.It's a particularly great setup this year, with real-time instrumentation,allowing participating students to view the performance of their modelbuildings as they are on the shake table. We're fortunate to have the NEESfacility at UCLA Engineering, and fortunate to have the NSF funding that allowsfun and educational events, as well as important earthquake research we hopewill ultimately lead to reduced losses in the future."

The seismic design event duringthe annual ASCE conference is one way to involve students in earthquakeresearch taking place across the nation. The ASCE student conference seismicdesign competition began two years ago, with the 2005 competition held at California StateUniversity, Fullerton, and the inaugural competition in2004 held at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Ranked among the top 10engineering schools among public universities nationwide, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and AppliedScience is home to six multimillion‑dollar interdisciplinaryresearch centers in space exploration, wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology,nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, funded by federal and private agencies. Formore information, visit

For inquiries on competing in the2006 Pacific Southwest Regional Conference of the American Society of CivilEngineers, please contact Carrie Leung at or visit

2006 Pacific Southwest Regional Conference

American Society of Civil Engineers

Hosted by the UCLA Henry Samueli Schoolof Engineering and Applied Science

Seismic Design Challenge schedule:

Friday, March 31

9a.m.-9:45 a.m. Cal StateLA

9:45a.m.-10:30 a.m. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

10:30a.m.-11:15 a.m. UCLA Engineering

11:15a.m.-12 p.m. San Diego State

12p.m.-1 p.m. Lunchbreak

1p.m.-1:45 p.m. UC San Diego

1:45p.m.-2:30 p.m. Cal Poly Pomona

2:30p.m.-3:15 p.m. UC Irvine

For detailed schedule informationfor the entire conference, visit click on "Itinerary."



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