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Large-Scale Mobile Shakers & Associated Instrumentation for Dynamic Field Studies of Geotechnical & Structural Systems

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Large-Scale Mobile Shakers and Associated Instrumentation for Dynamic Field Studies of Geotechnical and Structural Systems  (University of Texas at Austin)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Large-Scale Mobile Shakers & Associated Instrumentation facility at the University of Texas, Austin is a part of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). The facility is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is home to five mobile shakers that have diverse force and frequency capabilities, an instrumentation van that houses state-of-the-art data-acquisition systems, and a large collection of field instrumentation.

NEES is the centerpiece of NSF’s ongoing priority to understand earthquakes and prevent or mitigate the damage they cause. Opened for operations on Oct. 1, 2004, NEES is a network of sites available for experimentation on site, in the field, and through remote operations. The network helps researchers understand how earthquake and tsunami forces affect ground motion and soil liquefaction as well as the built environment—buildings, bridges, utility systems—and near-shore and coastal environments. The NEES networking cyberinfrastructure connects equipment sites and provides a tele-presence, a curated central data repository, simulation tools and collaborative tools for facilitating on-line planning, execution and post-processing of experiments.

To conduct research where structures already exist -- or to test the soil where future building may be planned -- researchers need to conduct experiments outside of the traditional laboratory, or “in situ” (a Latin term meaning “in the original place”). The mobile equipment at the University of Texas makes it possible to conduct tests on site and relay data directly from the field to understand the earthquake forces and their potential impacts.

Education & Outreach

University of Texas staff conduct an ongoing outreach program to the general public. Their efforts have included demonstrations of earthquake testing equipment for undergraduates, middle school and elementary students, and the general public on campus and in the community. The facility also participated in Explore UT, where visitors are encouraged to unravel scientific mysteries, unleash creative energies and uncover the realms of discovery that are a part of everyday life at the University of Texas, Austin. For those without the opportunity to learn in person, the facility website hosts online videos that explain the source of earthquakes and soil liquefaction.

The NEES Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program is a dynamic 10-week summer research program for upper-division undergraduate students interested in civil engineering, computer science/engineering, electrical engineering, and other fields related to seismic-risk-mitigation testing. REU participants are paired with a faculty advisor, join a NEES research team, and participate in enrichment activities including the NEES Annual Meeting and the Young Researchers’ Symposium. Mentors, including university faculty, researchers, and graduate students, provide support and guidance to interns. Students are taught how to conduct independent research and how to participate effectively as a member of a research team.

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  • Image from the NSF-funded Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.
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