Science & Technology

Third-year high school students built a low-cost seismograph that provides breaking news for homes and businesses.

Vivian He had an Earthquake Early Warning device in a temporary soldering room that was remodeled from the bathroom. Credit: Vivien He

A third-year high school student in Southern California built a low-cost seismograph device that provides Earthquake Early Warnings to homes and businesses. The seismograph could one day become a regular household safety device, similar to a smart smoke detector, as she costs less than $ 100 to make today, says its inventor Vivian He.

Approximately the size of a Rubik’s cube and covered with clear acrylic, the seismograph has a sleek, consumer look. The device’s receiver detects seismic motion, and onboard hardware and software convert the receiver’s electrical signals into digital waveforms. The device has detected all earthquakes above magnitude 3.0 around Los Angeles since September 2020.

If the earthquake is stronger than the alert threshold set by the user, the device can sound an onboard alarm for onsite alerts, send a text message to local subscribers of the regional alert service, and control it from their smartphone.

He presented his work on this device at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Seismological Society of America (SSA). He also received the SSA Student Travel Grant, the only high school student of all recipients, and attended the conference for free. She is a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estate. He would like to thank Melissa Claus, a teacher in her scientific research class, for her guidance in scientific research methods and her support in pursuing research opportunities.

Vivian he seismograph

Vivien He has early seismic alarms deployed throughout Los Angeles. Credit: Vivien He

He researched, designed, built and tested the entire device during the summer and fall. COVID-19 (new coronavirus infection) Limits. Her home lab occupies a corner of the bedroom with “a bedside drawer full of small wires and additional shock absorbers and components.” She said.

There was also a bathroom she rented, and the bright light was suitable for soldering. In the case of acrylic laser cutting, her dad helped drag the table from the garage to the yard for safety.

“I did-don’t tell my mom-but I had a little fire once,” she admitted.

Seismograph equipment provides a consumer-friendly, low-cost, but purpose-built alternative to more expensive science-grade systems such as the West Coast ShakeAlert system for current earthquakes. He said it would fill the gap in the early warning system. Her device provides a way for people in the seismic zone to receive a few seconds to tens of seconds of warning to take action and automatically shut down utilities and machines while working.

He founded the non-profit Melior Earth to help deliver devices to those in need of an inexpensive early warning system for earthquakes. “We look forward to providing this to low-income families and neighborhoods with poor seismic infrastructure,” she said.

Quiet under quarantine

He came up with the idea of ​​a seismograph after reading a treatise on the “quietness” of anomalous earthquakes that fell on Earth when the blockade of COVID-19 stopped many human activities. “I was wondering if I could measure it at my own home, but I thought I could immediately measure it at my own home and apply it to Earthquake Early Warnings,” she recalls.

She began reading about Earthquake Early Warnings and built a huge three-ring binder for highlighted treatises, including many from the SSA Journal. One of her favorite researchers in this area was Richard M. Allen, director of the Berkeley Institute for Seismology.

“He really enjoyed the way he explained the limitations of the early warning system and the current system,” he said.

The study gave him confidence that he could take a consumer-based approach as opposed to a traditional public station-based approach to build low-cost devices for Earthquake Early Warnings. It was. Then it’s time to understand components, programming, and design. She didn’t have much expertise to get into the project, but given that much of the skills and knowledge needed was outside the school curriculum.

“I MIT The other day’s hackathon, and what they said, the hacker’s secret is that they just google everything, right? “She said. “And it’s like what I did for this project, oh, I don’t know how this works, just google!”

As he explains in his SSA presentation, the device has evolved over time as his skills improved and he solved design problems along the way. The final design includes alert and notification capabilities, as well as a data card that can hold up to four years of standard seismic waveform files that can also be used for seismological research.

“Hey, do you guys hear it?”

He connected her first seismograph the night after midnight last September. “Then I fell asleep, and the next day I woke up, and there was an earthquake in Los Angeles, and I ah, that’s fate!”

She compared the seismic signals captured by her device with those generated by the US Geological Survey near her home. “The waveforms looked the same,” she recalled.

One of the early successes of her testing period was “when my whole family was in the living room, we were all talking, and the device started beeping. And they said,” It’s Is it an earthquake? ” Then the pendant lights began to sway, “she said.

Since then, the seismograph has succeeded in detecting several recent earthquakes in Southern California, and he attended science expos in her school district and Los Angeles County. There she won the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) Finalist Award. This will put her next in competition at the international level. In addition, she received the Women’s Geoscientist Association Award, the Cheryl Savan Self-Respect Foundation for Women and Girls 1st Prize and Scholarship, and the California State Government’s Marilyn Jorgenson Reese Excellence Award and Scholarship Professional Engineer.

At the age of 17 in February, he is working on a working patent for this device. She plans to use a non-profit organization to drive consumer adoption of the device. In particular, we plan to make earthquake early warnings accessible to low-income countries, regions and populations.

“The point of it is that it becomes a consumer product, but I’m not focusing on the financial benefits of it,” she explained. “I’m more focused on the science of it and its impact on people and earthquake preparedness in general.”

Conference: Annual Meeting of the Seismological Society of America

Third-year high school students built a low-cost seismograph that provides breaking news for homes and businesses. Third-year high school students built a low-cost seismograph that provides breaking news for homes and businesses.

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