A Local D.C. School Receives a Real-Time Earthquake Monitor

Rockwave VS1 Seismometer
The Rockwave VS-1 vertical sensor. Image courtesy of the British Geological Survey
Tuesday, December 09, 2014 

A local Washington D.C. school is now able to monitor real-time earthquakes thanks to a generous donation from former DTM staff scientist, David James, and his wife Jeri Thomson.

DTM field seismologist Steven Golden headed the seismometer installation at the Washington International School in northwest D.C. on 1 December 2014, where he installed and tested the Rockwave VS-1 educational seismometer.

Although designed like a “professional” instrument, this Rockwave VS-1 seismometer is packaged in a case that allows students to view part of its interior construction. Golden placed the seismometer in a quiet corner of a basement storage area, where it will be able to pick up signals from distant earthquakes and be easily accessible for class demonstration purposes. 

“After acquiring all these instruments early last spring, they were first brought to DTM for initial setup and testing,” says Golden on the installation process. “Thereafter, they had to remain here for several months, waiting for a major school renovation to finish before they could be moved into their intended locations. Today, this day did finally come.”

The donation package also includes a TC-1 “slinky” seismometer donated by John Taber, director of education and public outreach at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. This mobile seismometer is hung up on a slinky and then suspended inside a pickup coil for sensing its movements.

Golden says, “while not very sensitive, this [slinky seismometer] is an excellent demonstration unit to explain the inner workings of a seismometer by temporarily setting it up on a tabletop in the classroom.” 

James and Thomson also donated a computer and large monitor, which will be mounted at a future time in a public space, like the school’s cafeteria, to display current earthquake activity detected by the school’s new Rockwave VS-1 seismometer. According to Golden, James also plans to add a second monitor to display an activity map side-by-side with current seismograms, including the one recorded by the school seismometer in the basement.

Golden says the school’s physics teacher, Steve Hoare, plans to utilize the new equipment to incorporate hands-on seismology lessons into his physics and geography classes. 


Writte by Robin A. Dienel
9 December 2014