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Build your own Seismograph (CS34)

Learning Scenario Description
Title “Build your own Seismograph”
CreatorAlexandra Moschou
Main Idea / DescriptionBuilding a seismograph can be an exciting educational project for students to learn about earthquakes and seismology. This lesson plan will introduce students to the basic principles of seismology and engineering while allowing them to construct a simple seismograph using readily available materials.
Target Group(students’ age, learning level, background, disabilities)Students aged 10 – 15 years old
Curriculum & Learning SubjectsEnvironmental education and Computer science 
Competencies Skills
– Problem-solving
– Critical thinking
– Algorithmic thinking
Students will understand the basic principles of seismology and explore how seismographs work and their importance in studying earthquakes.
Teachers’ Wellness CompetenciesEmotional e-independence:The use of software like SeisComP introduces teachers to technological tools, fostering digital literacy and potentially increasing their confidence in incorporating technology into lessons. 
Social e-competency:The class discussion and collaborative activities encourage a positive classroom environment, potentially reducing teacher stress and promoting a sense of community. Allowing experimentation with the constructed seismograph and software can provide a sense of exploration and creativity for both students and teachers, which can positively impact well-being.
Emotional leadership/e-mediacy:Teachers should be able to identify signs of technostress in themselves and their students. For example, they may observe students’ signs of frustration or anxiety related to technical difficulties or challenges in using the SeisComP software. They should provide clear instructions and ensure that the technology used is user-friendly and accessible for students. This might include guiding students through the installation and use of SeisComP in a step-by-step manner.
E-self management:Teachers should be able to use the software.
Learning Scenario Framework
Pedagogical MethodProject-based learning
PI1. Emphasising strengths (Lean on your strengths and have a positive mindset):This student-centered approach promotes active learning and problem-solving skills. Students are advised to bring materials from home, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and collaboration.
PI4. Relationships support (Support and work well with others):The project-based learning approach encourages collaboration and peer support. The class discussion and collaborative activities, such as constructing seismographs and discussing observations, promote positive teacher-student and peer relationships.
PI2. Emotional Management (Learn to understand your emotions): Students should be encouraged to maintain a positive attitude. A supportive environment contributes to reducing students’ technostress.
PI6. Encouraging engagement (Engage students in self-directed and dedicated learning): Students actively engage in constructing their own seismographs. 
Software & MaterialsMaterials
– A cardboard or plastic box for the main body of the seismograph. 
– Paper or cardboard for the surface of the device 
– Spring or springs (from old pencils, for example). 
– Pencil or pen with a clip (a clip-on pen) 
– Rubber bands
– Markers, crayons, or colored pencils 
– Ruler
– Scissors
– Tape
– Modeling clay or Play-Doh
– Small rocks or marbles
– A soft surface (like a foam pad or a carpeted floor)
– Stopwatch or timer 
– A table or desk to set up the seismograph
– Vibration sensor or acceleration sensor (e.g., mobile phone sensor).         

Evaluation ToolsClass discussion: Τeachers ask students to present their seismograms and discuss their observations.
– What is a seismograph, and why is it important to study earthquakes?
– How does a seismograph function?What did you learn about pendulum motion during the activity?
– How do scientists use seismograms to study earthquakes?
– Did the pendulum react differently to strong and weak “earthquakes” (tapping)?
Learning Scenario Implementation
Learning Activities Description   
Class discussion:
The earthquakes and their causes. Teachers explain to students that seismology is the study of earthquakes. The concept of a seismograph is introduced as a device to detect and record seismic waves during an earthquake. Teachers may provide pictures and diagrams of real seismographs to give students an idea of what they will be building.The importance of seismographs for monitoring and understanding earthquakes should be also discussed.
Building a Seismograph:
Students are advised to bring in class a shoebox or cardboard box with a lid from home. They should have the materials required to build the seismograph. Below is a complete guide on how to construct the seismograph:
1.Cut two 1-inch-wide strips from the paper or plastic cup.
2.Attach the strips to the opposite sides of the pencil or pen using tape, creating a hanging pendulum.
3.The clip-on pen is attached to the inside of the box lid so that the pendulum can swing freely.
4.A small amount of modeling clay or Play-Doh was placed at the bottom of the box to maintain a steady seismograph.
5.Place the foam pad or carpeted floor under the table or desk where the seismograph is set up.
6. The seismograph is placed inside the box, and the lid is closed.

Detecting and Recording Seismic Waves
Class discussion on how seismographs work. The pendulum reacts to the ground motion caused by simulated seismic waves.Students should take turns tapping the table or desk gently to simulate seismic waves, while another student observes the pendulum motion. They should be also encouraged to record their observations in a simple log, noting the time and intensity of the tapping.It is explained that real seismographs record this motion on a rotating drum, creating a seismogram.Discussion about the concept of seismograms and examples of real earthquakes.Have students create their own seismograms by drawing the pendulum over time during tapping.Discuss how scientists use seismograms to understand the magnitude and location of earthquakes.

1. Adding a sensor: Connect the vibration or acceleration sensor to the box. Make sure it is positioned so it can sense the vibrations.
2. Data recording: Connect the sensor to a computer or device that records the data. This can be done via USB, Bluetooth, or other methods depending on the type of sensor.
3. Software: Connect the sensor to a computer or device that records the data. This can be done via USB, Bluetooth, or other methods depending on the type of sensor. One of the tools you can use to record and display seismological data is SeisComP.
– Step1:Download SeisComP:Visit the official SeisComP website ( and download the latest version of the software.
– Step 2: Installation: Follow the installation instructions provided on the SeisComP website. Usually, they include installation instructions and required dependencies.
– Step 3: Configuration: After the installation is complete, follow the instructions to configure the system. You should identify the seismic data sources and configure the data storage settings.
– Step 4: Starting: Start SeisComP services to start recording and processing seismic data.In addition to SeisComP, there are other software such as ObsPy that offer Python libraries for processing seismic data. If you prefer graphical development environments, you can use environments like Jupyter Notebook to develop Python code to process and analyze seismic data.
4. Experimentation: Run tests and observe how the device reacts to vibrations. You can create vibrations using e.g., your hand to shake the device.