Build Your Own STEM Adventure – Earthquake Proof Buildings

Ideas for integrated STEM projects that align to the ACARA science understandings.


Earthquake Proof Buildings

ACARA Science Alignment: Earth and Space Sciences – The theory of plate tectonics explains global patterns of geological activity and continental movement (ACSSU180 – Scootle )

Suggested Year Level: Year 9

Project: Students work in groups to design on paper, prototype using fun edible materials (e.g. toothpicks and mini marshmallows in a jelly plate), then build and test using construction materials (e.g. Styrofoam blocks, straw construction sets, lego or mechano), a 2 story construction that can survive a shake table ‘earthquake’ for 10-30 seconds.


Watch the Catalyst episode on earthquake resistant building techniques in Japan,

STEM links: boost the connections with different disciplines by

Maths – have students film in slow motion either their own building during the simulated earthquake, or using film footage from real earthquakes. Students can take measurements to calculate the distance the building moves/sways/wobbles from the centre, and express this as a percentage or graph it over time or against the magnitude of the quake.

· Science – have students explain how their design assists in earthquake resistance, while using key terms from a word bank such as liquefaction, p and s wave, epicentre, transform boundary etc. Use scientific inquiry to design and perform a fair test that alters one factor (e.g. height of building, depth of foundations, mass of inner column) in the design and determines the effect on stability.

· Engineering – have students design, construct and test the building while following an engineering design model. Build using everyday materials found around the kitchen, school and home.

· Technology – have students use apps to measure and record the magnitude of their ‘earthquake’ e.g. Richter scale phone apps.

· English – have students write newspaper articles, poems or historical fiction to recount the experience of surviving an earthquake.

· HASS – research different earthquakes and plot on a map to see if they align with plate boundaries. Explore different soil types and how they affect liquefaction.

Get Inspired

We’d love to hear from you if you build earthquake proof buildings in your class, or if you have other ideas or feedback on how to use this Build Your Own STEM Adventure. Good luck!

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