Brighton 2nd Graders Build an Earthquake Detector
for the Great American Shakeout
The Great American Shakeout is an annual earthquake practice event that takes place every year in October. Close to a million people participated in Washington State this year with close to 25 million joining in across the world. On 10/16 at 10:16 AM students across Washington “dropped, covered and held on” in response to a pretend earthquake.
Brighton School trained its staff and practiced earthquake drills with its students in preparation for the Shakeout, like schools across the state and country. But Brighton second graders added something extra to the Shakeout by building their own Earthquake Detector. Brighton 2nd graders in Kitten Vaa’s class built and programmed a device to receive vibration signals from a pendulum and activate a warning system when the pendulum indicates an earthquake.
The 2nd Grade Earthquake Detector uses an Arduino Micro-controller connected to a pendulum sensor providing input; and a speaker, windmill and warning lights as outputs. Working in table teams, the 2nd graders connected the devices to the Arduino and wrote simple programming commands for the four stages of the earthquake alert – 1) All quiet, 2) Earthquake!, 3) Waiting, and 4) All Clear. The students programmed the Arduino to listen to the sensor and turn on and off the lights, tape recorder and windmill as needed during the different stages of the alert.
The big test for the Earthquake Detector was on October 16th when the 2nd graders activated the system. At exactly 10:16 Brighton Middle School students marched into the 2nd grade classroom and began jumping up and down, setting off the Quake Detector and causing the red warning light to turn on, the windmill to spin, and the tape recorder to turn on with an alert message the class had recorded. Students immediately dropped, found tables and desk to climb under, covered their heads and held on. After about a minute, the Detector announced that the quake had ended and the students followed their teacher out to the field.
The Brighton Shakeout Event was a great success overall and event director, Cynthia Gahan, said she was very impressed with the effort by the 2nd graders. She said that creating the Earthquake Detector helped the 2nd graders get directly involved in the Shakeout in a hands-on way.