Engineering For Earthquakes

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In this design challenge, learners will engineer a structure and see if it can survive an earthquake they create. As earthquake engineers, leaners will use materials from around the home to build an earthquake-safe structure and a DIY shake table. The activity covers building, testing, and re-building creations to examine if structures can successfully support a "live load." Includes instructions on building a shake table, a graphic explanation of how structures move during an earthquake, and suggested story framework to extend the activity. A Spanish version of the activity is also available.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • NOTE: below is a sample of the many at-home items that you may choose to use in this design challenge. Refer to the activity guide for an extensive list of suggested items that you can use, or feel free to use other items that you think may work.
  • 3 options for DIY shake table made up of a flat thin surface and something than can move underneath (including objects such as hardback books, cardboard, rulers, rubber bands, paint sticks, tennis balls, and marbles)
  • Structural pieces for earthquake-safe structure (carboard, toilet paper rolls, plastic utensils, chopsticks, etc.)
  • Connector pieces for earthquake-safe structure (rubber bands, paper clips, tape, string, etc)
  • Tools that will help you (scissors, hole punch, pencil and paper)
  • Live loads/weights (small toy, water bottle, play-doh, etc)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Earthquakes
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Architectural Engineering
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts


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Access Rights:

  • Free access



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