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MCEER Bulletin, Volume 23, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2009

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Volume 23, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2009

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“Planet Quake” Introduces High School Students to
Careers in Engineering

“Planet Quake”  high schoolers simulate the landing of a mini-Starship Enterprise during an earthquake on a platform they designed

The “Planet Quake” activity required high schoolers to land a mini-Starship Enterprise during an earthquake on a platform they designed.

Seventy Western New York high school students participated in the BEAM (Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities) program’s Star Trek-themed competition. The all day event on Saturday, May 23, 2009, was a test for the students to prove their scientific and mathematical mettle in a brain-teasing race around the campus. Not knowing what to expect, students had to locate the venues based on Trekie clues and complete various engineering tasks in order to move on to the next venue.

The “Planet Quake” activity combined engineering and structural design skills and required students to build a landing structure and platform, and during a simulated seismic event, successfully land a mini-Starship Enterprise. The landing structures were tested on a portable shake table that replicated actual seismic events, including the 1994 6.7 magnitude Northridge, California earthquake.

The task was designed, developed and led by UB-NEES Site Operations Manager Tom Albrechcinski with the support of Gilberto Mosqueda, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, and Sofia Tangalos, Manager of MCEER’s Information Service. The Planet Quake Flight Test officers were assisted by seven CSEE graduate students during the day of the event.

UB’s BEAM is a cooperative educational enrichment program that prepares inner-city, minority, female and other under-represented students for careers in science, engineering and technology through after-school and summer programs. BEAM encourages, recruits and retains women and minorities to the engineering professions. The BEAM Trek event was the result of efforts by dedicated alumni of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences working with local companies and educational organizations to find new sources of support. Over $20,000 was raised for summer educational programs.