Using Computational Thinking to Understand Earthquakes A looping video of a seismograph attached to a laptop

Using Computational Thinking to Understand Earthquakes

Students build a seismograph to visualize earthquake data and explore modern engineering techniques used to mitigate earthquake damage. Then, they engage in an Excel big data activity to understand plate tectonics.

Lesson Basics

Takes 2 to 3 weeks of classroom time

Costs approximately $2.00 to $5.00 USD per student, excluding tools and microcontroller

Meets middle school science, technology, engineering and math standards (STEM)

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Materials developed in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences & KQED

Earthquake lesson logo with inset logos from California Academy of Sciences and KQED

Earthquakes and Tectonic Plates


We are proud to feature this lesson plan developed by the California Academy of Sciences and KQED.


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Earthquake lesson educator workbook

Seismograph Instructions


A step-by-step guide for building the Seismograph. Includes templates, a list of things you need and detailed instructions.


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Tuned Mass Damper lesson educator workbook

Tuned Mass Damper Instructions


A step-by-step guide for building the Tuned Mass Damper. Includes templates, a list of things you need and detailed instructions.


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The excel workbook for the Seismograph lesson

Customized Excel Workbook


A customized Excel workbook visualizes real-time data generated by seismographs and Tuned Mass Damper (TMD). Requires the Project Córdoba add-in listed below.


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The materials required for the Seismograph lesson.

Materials List


A spreadsheet with links to online resources to help you bring these projects to your classroom.


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An Arduino Uno microcontroller alongside a circular LED light panel.

Code for the Project


Pre-built code for your microcontroller to help you and your students visualize live data.


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Technical requirements

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