Three 2011 PEER Interns visit Japan to view E-Defense Testing

Three of the 2011 PEER summer interns (Zhi Liu, John Pham, and Sarah Welsh-Huggins) were selected to experience research testing underway at the world’s largest shaking table, E-Defense, in Japan, with funding from a NSF supplement to the PEER Internship Program which is focused around the theme of Earthquake Engineering Resilient Communities.

The students visited Japan from August 16-20, 2011. As a part of this once in a lifetime experience, they (1) saw a full-scale test of a 5-story steel moment frame with seismic isolation devices on the E-Defense shaking table, (2) met both US and Japanese researchers conducting state-of-the-art research, and (3) joined the Participant Workshop being conducted in conjunction with the NEEStips/E-Defense Full-Scale Seismic Isolation Test Program. This trip demonstrated how large-scale and broadly reaching research is conducted in a collaborative, international environment.

The tests observed by the interns were a collaborative effort between the NEEStips project (NSF Grant No. CMMI 1113275), NEES Nonstructural (NSF Grant No. CMMI 0721399), and NIED in Japan. The seismic performance of 5-story steel moment frame building with a variety of nonstructural components attached (interior walls, ceilings, piping system, and concrete cladding panels) was assessed in three configurations (two seismically isolated conditions and one as a typical fixed base condition). The seismic isolation systems being test by the NEEStips program are among the most promising and widely implemented systems to enhance seismic resiliency, thus this testing provided a unique match to the overarching theme of PEER REU Program: “Enhancing the Seismic Resilience of Communities.” Seeing first hand the benefits resiliency provided a capstone to the summer internship experience for the participating interns.

According to John Pham, one of the intern participants, the trip was both memorable and worthwhile. “I was really honored to be in discussion with such an admirable group of people. There were professors and professionals from around the world in the structural engineering field. It was obvious that they were very experienced and had a real grasp of earthquake design. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about graduate school, the academia world of engineering as well as the professional. Thank you again for your help in making this trip possible!”

Upon her return from Japan, one of the participants, Sarah Welsh-Huggins, wrote the following statement which demonstrates the dramatic impact this experience had on her career plans: “Throughout my undergraduate education I have said that I hope to pursue a career in earthquake engineering after graduation. The recent NEES-TIPS workshop at the E-Defense facilities in Kobe, Japan gave me a chance to learn about what such a career might actually entail. Over the three-day program, we heard presentations and participated in discussions on a broad range of topics related to seismic base isolation and earthquake engineering. As the focus of the workshop, we also witnessed over half a dozen full-scale tests on the five-story moment-frame structure. As an undergraduate student at her first professional workshop with practicing engineering and academics, the overall experience was exhilarating. During the last day of testing, while watching a simulation of the March Tohuku earthquake rock the shake table, I had a sudden realization. Not only did I feel fortunate to watch these experiments, but I felt affirmed in the career goals and aspirations that I have held for so long. My participation with the NEES-TIPS/E-Defense workshop introduced me officially to the professional world of earthquake engineering and I now know for certain that this is the field in which I belong.”

Funding for the 2011 PEER Internship Program as well as travel to the Japan was provided National Science Foundation under Grant No. EEC-1063138. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).