Reaching out to the next generation of earthquake engineers

The Georgia Tech Chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (GT-EERI) believes in starting them young. That's what prompted several members to volunteer their time at Atlanta's Fernbank Museum for Science at Hand day, on Saturday, November 9.

The event gave area youth an opportunity to have hands-on experiences in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

According to GT-EERI chapter president Pablo Vega, members talked to kids and parents about the study of structural behavior and how earthquake engineers approach their work. 

"We ran a bridge design and construction game - West Point Bridge Designer-  in the computers. The kids competed to see who could build the most economic bridge that remained structurally sound after a truck drove over it," he said. 

That's great training for the ASCE Steel Bridge competition, an annual event that challenges civil engineering students to construct a working bridge. Last year's Georgia Tech Steel Bridge team went all the way to the national Steel Bridge competition in Seattle. 

But the would-be engineers at the Nov. 9 event also got a taste of what it's like to design an earthquake-resistant structure when they applied a shaking device to one of the model structures. That's something that Vega knows a thing or two about; he is part of a team of CEE researchers who is participating in a NSF-funded research project that is testing earthquake retrofits.

"I'm obviously a little biased, but I'd say our table was always one of the most crowded ones at the Science at Hand event," Vega said. "Kids and parents alike really seemed to enjoy it."