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Pilot quake competition unearths movers and shakers of the future

HUNDREDS OF future structural engineers were revealed at the University of Bristol this month during the pilot for a national schools competition in earthquake engineering.

School children from five local schools brought model buildings to the university's Earthquake Engineering Research Centre (EERC) to be shaken to destruction on an earthquake simulator.

A competitive and noisy atmosphere developed as the 110 children saw their opponents' models collapse under increasingly large earthquakes.

However, the winning models were not the last ones standing.

To demonstrate the concept of cost efficiency in design, winners were determined by considering their mass. The best designed model was the lightest to resist a specified earthquake, and the most efficient model was the one with the highest maximum earthquake resistence to mass ratio.

The project, Introducing and demonstrating earthquake engineering research in schools (IDEERS), is being led by the department of civil engineering's Dr Adam Crewe and Dr Wendy Daniell. It is funded by £29,000 from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of a wider initiative to improve public understanding of science and engineering research.

The project is also being supported by EQE International, Arup, WS Atkins and Texas Instruments, all of whom will be sponsoring prizes when the competition is launched nationally this summer, with the first final set to take place in April 2002.

IDEERS aims to promote an understanding of earthquake engineering research to secondary school students through a web-based competition for 1116 year olds. The challenge is to make models of earthquake resistant buildings using medium density fibre board, paper string and glue. Finalists will bring their models to the EERC to be tested for simulated earthquakes on the EPSRC shaking-table.

In addition entrants will have to produce a display showing how they developed their model and that they understand the effects of earthquakes and the need for earthquake resistant buildings.

The EPSRC award requires researchers to communicate the challenge and excitement of their work. IDEERS will achieve this by encouraging children to simulate the earthquake engineering research process by developing and testing their models.

An IDEERS website will also give information on the effects of earthquakes, the need for earthquake engineering research and some fundamentals on the seismic behaviour and design of buildings.

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