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Virtual Laboratory in Earthquake Engineering Offers Learning Opportunities on the Internet

The nonlinear two-story simulation consists of one animation frame, one excitation frame, two response frames and the control panel.

A series of Virtual Laboratory (VL) experiments on topics traditionally taught to students in earthquake engineering are available via the Internet through MCEER’s and the Smart Structures Technology Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s (UIUC) websites. The experiments were developed by Bill Spencer, Nathan M. Newmark Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his students under MCEER’s education program.

Four java-powered experiments are available:

Structural Control using TMDs and AMDs: The user can compare the effect of using two different control systems to reduce the response of an “uncontrolled” structure subjected to earthquake excitation. The two control systems, chosen because of the widespread interest in this class of systems, are the tuned mass damper (TMD) and the hybrid mass damper (HMD).

Linear Base Isolation: The user can study the effectiveness of base isolation in reducing seismic demands on a structure. The simulator models a building as a single degree-of-freedom system with linear isolators

Nonlinear Base Isolation: This module is similar to the Linear Base Isolation experiment listed above, except that the building is modeled as a single degree-of-freedom system with various types of nonlinear isolators.

Nonlinear Two Story Building: This virtual experiment allows the user to study the effectiveness of designing a structure by using different nonlinear models. It models a two-story building as a two degree-of-freedom system with various types of nonlinear models for each story.

In each experiment, the user can choose various parameters to see how changes in input values affect the behavior of the system. Like a hands-on laboratory, the VL experiments help students and practitioners to visualize the results of their experiments, which will allow them to gain a deeper understanding of a wide range of topics in earthquake engineering. The VL experiments are available at (then select the “Education” button) or Efforts to further expand the modules are in progress. The development of the most recent module, Nonlinear Two-Story Building, is described in the “MCEER Interface between Research and Education,” in the 2001-2003 Research Progress and Accomplishments report, available at

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