Campus: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo -- April 04, 2001

$250,000 Gift Advances Seismic Research at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

A $250,000 grant from the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation is making it possible for Cal Poly to buy a large "shake table" to advance seismic research and give undergraduates a chance to conduct projects that graduate students elsewhere might envy.

The gift will pay a large part of the cost of a 10-foot-by-10-foot table capable of literally shaking apart a 10-ton, two-story structure in order to learn ways to build stronger buildings. To simulate earthquake conditions, it will be able to generate forces of up to one and a half times the force of gravity.

"This equipment puts Cal Poly at the forefront of integrating seismic safety and geotechnology into an undergraduate curriculum," said Rakesh Goel, associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

"Students hired to help implement testing projects and others who will carry out their own sponsored research projects in the lab will not only gain experience with this cutting-edge equipment, but will be exposed to a whole range of seismic safety issues," Goel said.

The servo-hydraulic shake table will attract industry-sponsored projects to test whether materials and systems meet seismic safety design standards, Goel said, and those projects are expected to pay the remainder of the equipment's total cost of $600,000.

The table is to be installed sometime next year in a two-story, stand-alone structure known as the Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group Earthquake and Geotechnical Laboratory, one of six interdisciplinary labs of the College of Engineering's Advanced Technology Laboratories facility. Earlier, Parsons Technology contributed a separate $250,000 for the design, development and construction management of the building.

In addition to large-scale testing of structural systems, the shake table will enable student and faculty projects related to soil-structure interaction, earthquake effects on environmentally sensitive structures, soil liquefaction, and soil characterization related to earthquake engineering and geo-environmental studies.

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