Sligo students given role in earthquake monitoring

17 Apr 2009

Adults often marvel at the ease with which young people pick up new technology, and students in Co Sligo are not about to disappoint as they take up their role in monitoring earthquakes around the globe.

The Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Jimmy Devins TD, yesterday announced an exciting pilot project in collaboration with the Seismology in Schools initiative run by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS).

Students in the Mercy National School and St John’s National School in Sligo have been provided with their own seismometers and accompanying desktop computers, which will allow them to detect shock waves from earthquakes all over the world as they are occurring.

“The purpose of Seismology in Schools is to introduce primary- and secondary-school students to the idea that science can be dynamic in everyday life. Earthquakes happen every day and we’re hoping the schools can record them,” explained Tom Blake, experimental officer in the Geophysics Section of the School of Cosmic Physics at DIAS.

There are 46 primary and second-level schools around Ireland involved in the Seismology in the School initiative. Each school will actively record earthquakes from around the world using their own seismometers.

Last year, secondary-school students in Scoil Chonglais, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, were among the first in the world to receive news of an earthquake in China, and the most recent devastating earthquake in L’Aquila in central Italy on 6 April was recorded by the seismometer installed in St Ailbe’s School in Rosanna Road, Tipperary Town.

The teachers involved in the initiative attend training workshops, funded by Discover Science and Engineering, to show them how to use the equipment.

The seismometer can be assembled easily and serves as both a physics teaching tool and a seismometer. The instrument also permits other activities, such as detecting the onset of bad weather.

Commenting on the Seismology in Schools initiative, Minister Devins said the enterprise will “provide students with practical experience in seismology, and will hopefully encourage them to choose science and possibly physics up to Leaving Cert level.”

By Jennifer Yau