The Quake Cottage was parked at Kokomo High School last week. The simulator allowed students to physically experience what it feels like to be in three different intensities of earthquakes.                               						Kate Crabtree/Kokomo Herald
The Quake Cottage was parked at Kokomo High School last week. The simulator allowed students to physically experience what it feels like to be in three different intensities of earthquakes. Kate Crabtree/Kokomo Herald

Last week, some students at Kokomo High School were able to participate in a unique experience that simulated what it is like to go through an earthquake. The Quake Cottage, an earthquake simulator, was parked on school grounds and showed students what the physical differences between different magnitudes of earthquakes felt and looked like.

“The machine itself is fairly simple. It is on a set of rollers and springs. In an earthquake, there are primary waves and secondary waves. One set goes back and forth, compressional, and one goes up and down, longitudinal,” said Polly Root Sturgeon, Education Outreach Coordinator at Indiana University. “We go from a magnitude 3.0 which is the lowest people can feel. We take them up to a magnitude 5.0 where you can see things start to move a bit. That is when you start seeing property damage and things falling. We take them all the way up to a magnitude 7.0, which is the highest our faults are capable of having.”

Sturgeon said it has been over 200 years since Indiana experienced a magnitude 7.0 plus earthquake, but it could happen here again, and at any time. According to Sturgeon, Indiana earthquakes vary from those in California because the west coast states are situated along tectonic plates. Here, we are sitting in the middle of one. However, she said there are other faults that are deeply buried.

For many of the students, they remembered the magnitude 3.8 earthquake that struck just south of Kokomo in 2010 so having this experience of the simulator helped them understand more about the science that causes earthquakes to happen.

According to Sturgeon, the central states are third highest for earthquake risk, making the risk high for an earthquake, even though most people in Indiana don’t think those type of events are common.

Connecting the dots between the probability of an earthquake, their learning, memories of the 2010 earthquake, and the simulator are all ways for the students to better understand the science behind earthquakes.

“I think it’s something we don’t get often so being prepared for it and actually going through and experiencing what for them to expect, they’ll be better prepared for it if they’ve actually had that experience with it. Understanding the science behind an earthquake will help connect them and link everything together everything they experienced, their families, and out in the community, too,” said Vince Lorenz Earth Science, Astronomy, Physical Geology, and Meteorology teacher at Kokomo High School.

“It’s good for them to be able to connect with something such as this. To go through a simulation, it’s better than just reading about it from a book. They can relate to it more if they are physically involved within it.”

Several students experienced the Quake Cottage during their science class and many were surprised just how bumpy of a ride it was.
“When I got out of the simulator, my legs were still shaking. Everything was moving, including your body,” said Dylan Cockerham.

“My head was shaking and stuff. It was unexpected. The first one was a 3.0. It wasn’t that bad. Then it went up to a 5.0 and it started to get worse. The 7.0 was shaky,” added Shemar Robinson.

Both Austin Atkinson and Rafael Lopez said that the experience of a large magnitude earthquake would be disorienting for those standing.

“It’s kind of an odd feeling. I could imagine if you were standing, you would be disoriented. You wouldn’t be sure what is going on,” Lopez said. 

“It was like standing on a really big piece of Jell-O. It shook faster and faster each time. That’s how I would explain it,” added Cockerham.

Atkinson said, “If it were to be real, it would be very disorienting. You really can’t focus on too many things. Eyes are wandering.”

The boys said the experience was interesting, and it made them think about what they would need to do in the event of another earthquake. For Cockerham, he felt learning about and riding in the simulator could help him on possible trips out west.

“I visit California sometimes so it’s really useful to know what could happen in that situation if I needed to know what to do,” he said.

Sturgeon and her staff also tie the lesson into global events and the fact that there are even stronger earthquakes on record. The Quake Cottage is scheduled for public events that can be found at igws.indiana.edu on the front page. Those wishing to try to schedule the Quake Cottage for their school can do so through that website.

“The Quake Cottage program is something we began in 2012 to teach Hoosiers about the earthquake risk and hazards that we have in Indiana,” said Sturgeon. “We show people what it feels like to be in an earthquake with our mobile earthquake simulator and then we talk to them about why we have earthquakes – the science behind it and how to prepare for them.”