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Local middle schoolers shake things up at K'nex competition

STEM students compete in UCSD's Seismic Outreach K'Nex Competition
Posted at 1:06 PM, Nov 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-27 19:43:25-05

LA JOLLA, Calif. (KGTV) — On Monday, 180 middle school students from Oceanside and National City showcased their engineering skills in UC San Diego's Seismic Outreach K'Nex Competition.

The event is designed to teach students about earthquake resilience, and the students brought their creations for assessment in a 'shake test,' an earthquake simulator determining the structural resilience of their designs.

UCSD considers this research crucial for San Diego middle school students because they live in an earthquake-prone state, directly above the San Andreas fault. The competition aims to inspire the students' interest in pursuing engineering degrees in the future.

The task assigned to the students was to construct a model at least two feet high, representing either a residential or commercial building.

Ryan Hua, a seismic outreach volunteer and engineering student at UCSD, said he went through the same STEM program when he was in middle school. He serves as the judge for the contest.

Hua said the goal was for students to design models resistant to 'resonant frequency,' the point at which a medium vibrates at its highest amplitude.

"There are many techniques such as diagonal bracing, and they can put it on the sides of the buildings. They are given a sheer wall where they can raise the building," Hua said. "Also they can adjust their dimensions to adjust their resident frequency and hopefully make it more earthquake resistant."

The competition ended with an awards ceremony. Students either received a performance index award, based on costs and dimensions, or a construction award. The students also received feedback on their models and had the opportunity to tour UCSD's campus.