Highway Seismograph

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This is an activity that models the operation of a seismograph, a tool used to measure the size of earthquakes. While driving down the highway as a passenger in a car, learners slowly draw a line across a sheet of paper to record the up-and-down motion of the car as it goes over bumps both big and small. The resulting picture is a seismogram-like recording. Learners can take the activity further by measuring the "Pothole Scale" - a logarithmic scale that models the more well-known Richter scale.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • a car, a driver, and a bumpy highway
  • a felt-tipped pen
  • a pad of lined paper


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Earthquakes
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Systems


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access