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Earthquake provides ‘real-life’ application

Earthquake provides ‘real-life’ application
Earthquake provides ‘real-life’ application
Students at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School, from left, seventh graders Andrew Spray and Brooklynn Keinsley and senior Nathan Bleecker work on their group's tower, made of balsa wood and construction glue, which is being built to withstand a simulated earthquake. The students began their project two days before an actual earthquake shook Southern Indiana on Friday. (Photo by Lindsey Corley)

A group of students at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School recently had the kind of real-life application of their studies no one could have ever dreamed.
Robin Morgan, a physics teacher at LJSHS, and Darrell Riggins, an industrial technology teacher at the school, have been using their classes cooperatively to build balsa wood towers that are supposed to withstand an earthquake.
On Friday, all of them did, and not in quite the way Morgan had planned.
‘Friday morning, I immediately thought, ‘real life application’, ‘ she said. ‘I heard some of these kids (before), ‘Why are we building these? We live in Indiana.’ Now it brings it home.’
The region experienced a 5.2-magnitude earthquake, with the epicenter in West Salem, Ill. For the students, learning about earthquakes and experiencing one were different things.
‘They brought it up’ Friday morning, Morgan said. ‘We talked about earthquakes, magnitudes, where it’s located. More the seventh graders, the excitement was there for them. They couldn’t believe it. Neither could we.’
The class, Morgan’s 11th and 12th graders and Riggins’ seventh graders, had been working together to construct the balsa wood towers since last Wednesday. The project was being funded by Morgan’s receipt of the MAC grant, given by the McDonald’s Corp.
Morgan said she wanted her physics students to mix with Riggins’ industrial tech students, with the juniors and seniors mentoring some of the younger students. For the project, each upperclassman is paired with a few seventh graders.
‘They’re applying what they have with the physics kids and the physics kids are explaining forces behind earthquakes,’ she said.
And on Friday, that abstract explanation became considerably more real.
Nathan Bleecker, a senior, said he knew Southern Indiana had experienced earthquakes before, but he wasn’t ready to experience one himself.
‘We had one a while ago,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think we’d have one for another 100 years.’
His group partners, seventh graders Andrew Spray and Brooklynn Keinsley, agreed. Spray said the earthquake woke him up, but he went right back to bed, and Keinsley said she slept through the whole thing.
‘It felt like a train going through my house,’ Bleecker said.
Now, they’re working on their tower with the hope theirs can survive an earthquake at least the magnitude of the one they experienced.
‘If we can’t withstand the earthquake we just felt, I’d feel pretty inadequate,’ Bleecker said, laughing.
The goal for the class is to finish the towers on Friday and test them with an earthquake simulator on Monday.