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Structural Engineering & Earthquake Simulation Laboratory

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL) at the University at Buffalo is a part of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). SEESL has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is home to shake table and large scale laboratory facilities.

NEES is the centerpiece of NSF’s ongoing priority to understand earthquakes and prevent or mitigate the damage they cause. 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.

The University at Buffalo is exploring the use of Real-Time Dynamic Hybrid Testing, a new form of testing where shake table tests of structural components are combined in real-time with computer simulations of the remainder of the structure. This provides a more complete picture of how earthquakes would affect large structures without the need to physically test the entire structure. Shake tables are designed to recreate both the movements of the ground and the varied forces generated by earthquakes and are invaluable testing tools for the simulation of earthquakes in a laboratory. A shake table typically has five degrees of freedom, meaning it can move in five separate directions. Two relocatable shake tables at the University of Buffalo, SUNY may be moved up to 100 feet apart.

Education & Outreach

Engagement with the community is an important part of the NEES mission. University at Buffalo faculty promote earthquake engineering science in their local community and to the public at large. Their activities have included Science Exploration Day that gave high school students the chance to tour SEESL and observe a simulated earthquake subjecting a sub-scale 27-story building to a seismographic record from the 1995 Kobe Earthquake. NEES experts have also conducted seminars and given earthquake engineering talks for schools.

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 attending 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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