Earthquake Project-Safer Buildings


This project focuses on studying the building structures best suited to survive earthquakes. In order to determine the best design, we must construct several models of earthquake proof buildings and then test them to see which structure is best suited for the job.



  • Engineer your World Quake Simulator

  • Microsoft Excel


  • 1 National Instruments myDAQ and USB connector cable

  • 1 National Instruments myQuake, which comprises

    • 1 circuit board & connector

    • 2 accelerometers

    • 1 AC/DC power adapter

    • 1 shaker table

  • 1 Mass scale, 0-1000g

or you may use Pitsco Earthquake Towers – Getting Started Package


  • Computer


  • Rulers

  • 2 C-clamps, 3” x 2” (opening x width)

  • X-Acto blades and knives, box cutters

To Construct the Buildings:

  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

  • Balsa wood (per team)

    • 12 beams 1/4” square, 3’ long

    • 4 beams of 1/4” square, 2’ long

    • 10 beams 1/8” square, 3’ long

    • 10 beams 1/16” square, 3’ long

    • 3 yards of balsa sheet, 3” wide, 1/16” thick

  • Foam core board (0.5cm thick, approx.. 1’ square)

  • Cutting surface/mat

  • Washers (9/16” ID, 1-3/8” OD, 5/64” or 0.8” thick, 50 washers)

  • 48” tower, prebuilt (for demonstration of forces on building)

  • Protective glasses or goggles


There are three building procedures to follow, one to create the foam base support, one to create the Roof Load Holder and one to create the actual building itself.

To create the Foam Base Support:

In order to keep the building steady during testing and prevent the base from bending during tests, you can create a foam base support.

This is the finished product:

In order to make this support, take a large piece of foam board and cut out the following pieces:

  • One 15 cm x 10 cm piece

  • Two 15 cm x 1 cm pieces

  • Two 6 cm x 1 cm pieces

Glue all of the pieces together so that the 6cm x 6cm base of the building structure fits snugly in the square opening in the center without tilting.

To create the Roof Load Holder:

This roof load holder will carry the weights to help simulate some of the actual weight real buildings have to bear.

This is the finished product:

In order to create this piece you will have to cut out the following pieces from a thick foam board:

  • One 7 cm x 7 cm piece (middle)

  • Two 10 cm x 8 cm pieces (side walls)

  • Two 10 cm x 7 cm pieces (side walls)

When glued together, this structure should easily slide over the top the 6cm x 6cm structure and sit stably with the weights inside.

To create the Buildings:

The design is all up to you! You can create any sort of building to test for this experiment as long as the base measures 6cm x 6cm. Here are some tips to better create your building design:

  • Use X-Acto knives, razors, or boxcutters to cut through the balsa wood beams or base. In needed, you can use scissors to cut through the balsa sheets or thin beams

  • Hot glue is recommended for joining the pieces together

  • In order to better fit the balsa sheet base against the four corner beams, you may want to notch the corners like so:

  • When gluing, be sure to glue all sides of the notched corners so the piece won't fall apart.

Scientific Principle

Through conducting these experiments we will be able to identify the principles of how earthquakes affect the different structures and designs of the models built. Students will be able to learn about torque, compression, tension, and the vibrations and waves of the earthquake. But before jumping into that, we will have to first understand the behavior of the earth's surface by learning about the theory of plate tectonics.

What is the theory of plate tectonics??????

Tectonic plates is the outer layer of the Earth's surface, it is scientifically referred to as the "lithosphere." The lithosphere is a bunch of plates that move across the Earth's surface. These plates are classified by two units, continents and ocean basins. These plates would compress and pull apart from each other, creating seismic waves and tremors.

Creating a design that can withstand an earthquake in different scenarios would help the students understand the laws of physics. Students will have to test and refine their models, giving them a taste of what it feels like to be an engineer.