Earthquake Detection

Nancy Sackman
Pacific Northwest Seismic Network
Sammamish Teen Science Café


Nancy Sackman, from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, visited the Sammamish Teen Science Café to present her organization’s efforts to stop earthquake threats in the Pacific Northwest. With state-of-the-art technology and a detailed explanation of how earthquakes occur, we learned about the ShakeAlert system and other technology used to predict and avoid disaster. ShakeAlert is a earthquake detection system that alerts people in a surrounding area that an earthquake has begun even before the ground has begun to shake. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network is one of a number of networks helping to develop the ShakeAlert system in the west coast of the US.  In this café, we learned about earthquakes and why/how they happen. Nancy Sackman explained to us that earthquakes are caused by tectonic plates colliding or one riding over another tectonic plate. She even brought in some props to help us understand it better. Some big ideas we took away from the presentation were how the earthquake happens, what to do in the event of an earthquake no matter what location you are in and how earthquakes are formed.

Hands on Activity

For our hands on activity, we played a game called “Earthquake or Eviction”. In this game, we had groups of three with two people pretending to be a house and one person as the owner of the house. There was also one person who acted as the announcer who shouted “Earthquake” or “Eviction”. If he/she shouted “Earthquake”, then the houses and the announcer would try to find an owner to build a house above. If he/she shouted “Eviction”, then the owner and announcer would have to move and find a new house to live under. The odd one out after the game would be the announcer and start a new round. We played several rounds of “Earthquake or Eviction” with Nancy Sackman and we had a lot of fun running around trying not to be the odd one out. At the end of each round, we saw how chaotic moving around was, which resembled the chaos that happens during natural disasters. We also were able to jump on the ground to “make an earthquake” of our own. Nancy Sackman brought in sensitive earthquake detectors which projected real-time data on her screen, regarding the vibrations on the ground.