Educating the Next Generation of Earthquake Specialist
Good practice in earthquake science, engineering, and public policy relies on a high caliber of trained specialists. PEER aims to improve the pool of individuals interested in practice of earthquake specializations through interesting and challenging programs aimed at a range of educational levels. Some examples are:
Improved science and mathematics education available to K-12 students
Middle-school students from the inner city are often unaware of career opportunities in science and engineering. In an effort to improve math and science education at the middle-school level, PEER has begun working with teachers and their students through a NSF-funded Research Experience for Teachers (RET) supplemental grant. The goal is to increase the knowledge and skill level of teachers from inner city schools, while at the same time having some direct impact on their students. All these efforts revolve around earthquake engineering. Nine teachers from eight inner-city schools spent several weekends on a PEER campus learning about earthquake engineering from faculty and graduate students, as well as receiving detailed instruction on operation of the university's laboratory equipment. These teachers then worked with their own students to develop science fair projects with experiments carried out by the students and teachers at the PEER university campus. Two of these projects have made it to county-wide science fair finals. We're making an impact on K-12 education in two ways:
- by developing earthquake engineering knowledge and laboratory skills of the K-12 teachers that they can utilize in the classroom and
- by exposing K-12 students to the university environment so that they can begin to realize it is an achievable goal for them.
Preparation of a well-prepared science and engineering workforce
The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) Education Program is designed to introduce, stimulate, cultivate, educate and develop undergraduate and graduate students with the knowledge that will enable them to contribute to the earthquake engineering profession from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. PEER's Summer Internship Program is intended to interest, attract, train, and retain promising undergraduates who have expressed an interest in earthquake education and earthquake-related fields. In 2002, 15 students were accepted into the program. Each intern works under the direction of a PEER faculty member on a PEER-funded project. The student is required to work 400 hours and submit a final report in order to receive their full summer stipend. For the past three years, these PEER students have also participated in a special poster session at the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, this year held in Portland, Oregon. For many of these students, the summer experience is their first exposure to research, and the EERI meeting their closest contact with practitioners.
Educational shake tables attract K-12 students to EERC universities
The Tri-Center "Instructional Earthquake Simulations" Project is aimed at increasing students' knowledge of earthquake engineering through the use of small earthquake simulators specifically designed for use in a classroom setting. Shaking tables have generally been used more as research tools than as instructional devices. To encourage more interest in structural dynamics and earthquake hazard mitigation at the undergraduate level, 23 institutions drawn from the three national earthquake centers cooperated in the design of a bench-scale shake table; presently, the number of participating institutions has grown to 40 and created a consortium known as UCIST (University Consortium of Instructional Shaking Tables). The equipment is used to integrate earthquake engineering into the undergraduate curriculum. Classroom demonstrations and "hands-on" experiments are conducted at all levels in order to have a significant impact on the curriculum. In addition, the shake tables are displayed and demonstrated at public awareness events including: state fairs, primary and secondary schools, and local community disaster preparedness programs.