First, what is a seismograph? It is a sensor that can sense even very small vibrations and is used by people who study earthquakes to determine when and where even small earthquakes happen and how strong they are. Katie Gardener, Lesley graduate student and science educator who works at the Liberty Science museum in Jersey City, shared the following free iSeismometer app activity that she uses with middle school students who spend a day at the museum doing workshops. She writes:While the students are at lunch after a busy morning investigating the behavior of waves, I start the iSeismometer app on my iPhone and lock it open. Then I tape it under one of the heavy lab tables. I also have an app that allows me to transmit the iPhone screen wirelessly to the classroom projector (iOS wireless transmission--see below for information). When students return from lunch, I use an introductory PowerPoint to briefly explain the concept of a seismometer, how it displays motion in three dimensions, and how scientists use triangulation to pinpoint where an earthquake has occurred using data from several seismometers.I explain that this process can also work in reverse: using several “pinpointed earthquakes,” you can triangulate on the seismometer to figure out where it is. Once I have explained this I tell the students that there is a seismometer hidden in the room and challenge them to find it by creating mini-earthquake by jumping around the room and using the seismograph display to find out where the seismometer is in the room. At this point I switch the projector to display the screen of my hidden iPhone. I tell the students to find the seismometer by jumping around the room and watching the results. When students first start, each is jumping without pattern and the screen goes crazy along the Z axis (up and down motion). Sometimes they notice that the x and y axes respond if they bump a table. Over time the students start to work together, forming larger groups and jumping together. The groups then take turns jumping, and the use the seismograph like a game of hot and cold. Eventually they develop a method that allows them to find the hidden phone. Part of the ruse is that I only show them pictures of large old school seismographs in the intro, so they aren’t specifically looking for something so small.The lesson serves several goals. First, it works out some of the after-lunch restlessness, and it engages students who think of it as a game and puts them in charge of developing a solution to find the device by forcing them to collaborate. Without collaboration, they never can zero in on a location. When they finish, they have a stronger understanding of how earthquakes can cause motion in several directions, and how those directions are represented mathematically on a graph using three axes. The tool app alone doesn’t lead to this learning experience--access to wireless transmitter technology was needed; but more importantly, a teacher's creativity in inventing the collaborative problem-solving context was the key. --Katie Gardner, firstname.lastname@example.org See the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation site for a lesson. Find an iSeismometer app.
--Ricky Carter, email@example.com