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Large Scale Structures Laboratory

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Development of a biaxial multiple shake table research facility  (University of Nevada Reno)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Large Scale Structures Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno features a biaxial, multiple shake table facility (with three identical biaxial shake tables) capable of testing conventional structural and non-structural systems by using the tables separately or as a single unit. The facility is managed as a national shared-use equipment site of the National Science Foundation-funded George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). The laboratory provides new earthquake engineering research testing capabilities for large structural systems through 2014.

Researchers at the laboratory are examining the performance of entire four-span bridges along with the performance of individual bridge components to better understand the structures’ ability to withstand earthquakes and other hazards. In cooperation with several other universities researchers subject models to simulated earthquake ground motions. They plan to study three models that are constructed with different materials and design details, and are built at about one-fourth the size of real bridges. The models include a conventional reinforced concrete structure and two other bridge models that incorporate innovative seismic-resistant features. Researchers from other NEES-supported facilities are contributing to the research as well, and the project also involves a unique international collaboration with researchers at Japan’s Tokyo Institute of Technology who are working with the University of Nevada team on the design of isolators that will be tested in the bridge columns. The project’s results are expected to lead to improved design criteria and seismic codes, and should ensure better bridge performance in future earthquakes.

Education & Outreach

The Large Scale Structures Laboratory is committed to educating students and involving them with our many projects. Each year, the College of Engineering hosts Engineer's Day, where students from the surrounding area tour campus and engineering facilities. The university also participates in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, where undergraduates have the chance to do research at the Large Scale Structures Laboratory. At the end of their 10-week stay, each student writes a technical paper for presentation at the Young Researcher's Symposium in Buffalo, NY. In addition to their research, the students participate in networking activities and take several field trips, including one to the NEES Annual Meeting in Honolulu, HI.

The university also hosts short summer camps that focus on hands-on activities and projects, such as building and testing bridges, blasting bottle rockets, and more. Past camps have included an Introduction to Engineering camp for students aged 12-14 and a Civil Engineering camp for students aged 14-17.

The staff at the Large Scale Structures Laboratory also enjoys connecting with the general public and visitors worldwide to share our ideas, facilities, and research. In addition to a lecture series, tours of the laboratory are available for groups of all ages.

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