Did You Feel It? and the Quake-Catcher Network: Gather and Contribute Data About Earthquakes in Your Front Yard and Schoolyard
Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
by Robert de Groot
It is 9:09 pm on Friday March 28, 2014 in Southern California and all of a sudden a magnitude (M) 5.1 earthquake strikes in the northwest corner of Orange County near the cities of La Habra and Fullerton. The Southern California Seismic Network swings into action collecting data about the event. The event is widely felt and many people put into practice what they learned during the Great California ShakeOut the statewide earthquake drill held every third Thursday of October – Drop, Cover, and Hold On.
After the shaking ends, everyone checks for injuries and damage. Then many submit data of what they felt during the earthquake on the United States Geological Survey’s Did You Feel It? website. This site leverages the abundant information available about earthquakes from the people who actually experience them. By taking advantage of the vast numbers of Internet users, the USGS can get a more complete description of what people experienced, the effects of the earthquake, and the extent of damage than was available in the past.
Within two hours after the March 28, 2014 magnitude 5.1 event there are over 30 aftershocks. The earthquake shakes all nine high schools of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District (CJUHSD), located 60 km east of Los Angeles.
However, something else is also shaking at the schools.
In 2013, CJUHSD Superintendent Mat Holton and Assistant Superintendent Tim Ward agreed to have seismometers from the Quake Catcher Network installed in all of their schools.
The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing motion sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. The QCN is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers to a real-time motion-sensing network.The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called micro electro-mechanical systems, (MEMS), accelerometers and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong motions are observed.QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC). QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise.QCN provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes.
Earth science teacher Bernadette Vargas (CSTA member) from Etiwanda High School, having felt the earthquake herself, signs into her account on the QCN website and she discovers that five of the high schools in the CJUHSD generated records from the earthquake. The seismogram shown here is from Montclair High School. She creates a report for her colleagues, which shares basic information about the earthquake, which schools in the district detected the event, and how to interpret the data. She explains that the blue record shows movement on the z-axis (up/down), the yellow on the y-axis, and the green on the x-axis.
The result on the following Monday: a teachable moment like no other. Many of the students felt the earthquake but not all of them felt the same thing – why? In several earth science classrooms in the CJUHSD a lively discussion about the difference between earthquake magnitude and intensity ensued. Copies of Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country published by the Southern California Earthquake Center were distributed. Not only did the students review the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety they also learned about the factors that influence what one feels during an earthquake.
The seismograms recorded by five of the CJUHSD high schools provided an opportunity for science educators to do other interpretive activities with students including a review of the behavior of seismic waves and how the locations earthquakes can be determined.
Vargas and her colleagues have been putting into practice strategies to implement NGSS in creative and innovative ways such as utilizing QCN data collected from events in their front yards and schoolyards.
An indispensable component of the QCN partnership between earthquake researchers and the CJUHSD is the support from the district’s information technology professionals. Director of Technical Support Marc Moya and his capable team assisted with the installation of the sensors and with troubleshooting software issues. Not only has Marc and his team embraced the importance of contributing data to better understanding earthquakes, they are also participating in a collaborative effort that focuses on improving student learning by providing opportunities to interact with authentic data.
California is Earthquake County and participation in the ShakeOut and other activities that promote preparedness and resilience are essential components of a K-12 education. Vargas, Moya, and others recognize that engaging students in real-time activities such as Did You Feel It and QCN complement and enhance these activities by providing students with opportunities to participate in authentic STEM-based learning experiences.
Robert de Groot is Education Program Manager at the Southern California Earthquake Center, an NSF+USGS Center at the University of Southern California and a member of CSTA.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…