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Build your own Seismograph!
An activity for Earth Science, Physical Science, Technology Education, or Electronics

Introduction:
This is a reprint of an article by Bennett M. Harris that was originally posted in HTML format at the Harris Educational website in 2003 as part of the “Probeware / Earth Science” section promoting CoachLab probeware/datalogging equipment. The article discusses how a seismograph works, and describes how to build a working seismograph. The article covers building the sensor mechanism used to detect motion, how to connect that sensor to CoachLab datalogging equipment, and how to set up Coach 5 software to make use of and record data from that sensor. CoachLab and Coach Software is designed and produced by the Center for Microcomputer Applications at the University of Amsterdam. Coach software is now in version 6, and CoachLab and ULAB hardware have also advanced. It is also possible to connect the sensor detailed here to other indicating or data logging equipment. can be used to teach principles of earth science (vibrations from earth movements), physical science (oscillations and damped oscillations), technology education (civil engineering and effects of vibrations on structures), or electronics (how sensors work, ohm's law).

This article will show you how to create such a seismograph, The intent in republishing this document is to preserve its how to calibrate its sensors, and how to use this device in content so that it may continue to be useful to educators, activities in your own classroom or lab. students and science hobbyists as we update and improve our website.

Building the Seismograph

We hope that you find this information useful. It is provided as A seismograph makes use of inertia in order to operate. Inertia is, where is, without any assertion as to usability or accuracy. is the tendency of an object at rest to stay at rest or an object All copyright or trademark terms are the property of their that is in motion to stay in motion unless acted upon by an respective owners and no copyright infringement is intended. outside force. A seismograph uses a flexible "reed" that can move freely if energy in the form of vibrations acts upon it to overcome its inertia. Once the vibrations stops internal friction Original Article: of the reed's materials cause the oscillation to dampen or slowly stop. The reed in a seismograph is connected between a stable base that is fixed to the source of vibrations on one side, and to Build your own Seismograph! a counterweight that can move freely on the other side. An activity for Earth Science, Physical Science, Technology Sensors (in our case flex sensors) mounted to the seismograph Education, or Electronics can then record the extent of the vibrations acting upon the Grades 4-12 or College seismograph. Any seismograph can only measure vibrations or Overview: movement in one plane. In order to measure right and left A seismograph is a sensitive mechanical device that is used to vibrations at the same time as up and down vibrations would observe and record vibrations. Scientists and engineers use require multiple seismographs each mounted in the correct seismographs in order to measure and predict earthquakes and plane. With Coach software it is possible to measure vibrations volcanic eruptions and also to measure the effects of from four seismographs at a time (each mounted in a different earthquakes and weather on buildings and structures. With a plane) probeware interface device (such as CoachLab, ULAB, TI-CBL, or Vernier LabPro), Coach software, and about $25.00 worth of For my seismograph I used "Tech Card" an educational parts you can construct a simple and sensitive seismograph that construction material made of recycled cardboard that is phone: 336.506.6696 (9-5 est) fax: 866.306.3016 (toll free)

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Build your own Seismograph!
An activity for Earth Science, Physical Science, Technology Education, or Electronics designed to be easily cut and folded into whatever shapes you can imagine. Tech Card is available through "The Science Source." You can also use regular non-corrugated cardboard or construct your seismograph from other materials as long as you have a flexible reed that will vibrate freely in a single plane. (Reed materials can include cardboard, thin plastic, thin metal such as steel sheet metal, or even very thin wood).

Building and Setting up the Sensor
Just as in our activity "Building and Testing Structures" (which also uses Tech Card materials) we again choose to use flex sensors in order to measure vibrations in this experiment. Flex sensors are simply variable resistors that change their resistive value based on how much they are deflected from a straight line. {2009 Update: “Building and Testing Structures” is a technology education activity that Harris Educational is proud to have taught to both a group of NC-TSA students and as a workshop to a group of NC Technology Educators. Photographs from the NC-TSA workshop are now available at our Face Book Fan Page at the following URL}
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/album.php?aid=86055&id=86177094101

Flex Sensors For our workshop on "Building and Testing Structures" it was necessary to find ways to gather data from non destructive tests on structures that were built by students. In order to do this we used an off the shelf CMA force sensor to apply and measure forces to the structures. We then wanted to measure how much certain structural members in the towers bent under that applied force. In order to measure this bending it was necessary to construct special sensors. Since it is easy to make any analog electrical device work as a sensor with Coach Software and any interface (i.e. CoachLab, ULAB, TI-CBL, LabPro, etc) it is not a hard or time consuming task to construct special sensors.

Parts of my Tech Card Seismograph: I constructed a base with a square-upright (made of two "C" beams) as a support. The square upright resists vibration so that most of the energy of external vibrations goes into moving the reed. The reed is made of a single unfolded "L" beam that can freely bend and flex with vibrations. The counterweight on the left side is made up of the remainder of the "C" beam used to make the support. It is folded back on itself three times to add mass to the end of the reed. Flex Sensors are mounted to each side of the reed using paper clips on each end. Paper (or cardboard) is used as an insulator between the sensors and the paper clips.

A transducer that can respond to bending force is already available on the market. It is called a "Flex Sensor" and is available from many electronics and robotics websites for about $10.00 each. This device was originally designed to be used in gloves and other feedback devices that could gather information In my design I connected the flex sensors to the reed using from wearers for artificial reality. paperclips as a "temporary" connection. More accurate measures of vibration can be achieved if the flex sensors are actually glued permanently to the reed. However, unless you The sensor (shown above at almost real size) is simply a are making a permanent seismograph out of more stable variable resistor that changes its resistance in response to how materials than cardboard I don't recommend gluing the sensors much it is bent. The way that the device works is based on its to the reed permanently. The paper/cardboard that covers both construction. The sensor has a backplane of a thin plastic ends of the flex sensors are necessary as insulators so that electricity does not flow through the paperclips from one sensor polymer that can easily bend. On top of this polymer is a layer to the other one thus shorting out the sensors. Using plastic of carbon that forms a resistor (which connects between the two metal terminals on the left side). On top of the carbon are paper clips is another alternative. equally sized and spaced squares of metal which are glued in Designs may vary significantly, see "Lesson Ideas by Discipline" below.

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Build your own Seismograph!
An activity for Earth Science, Physical Science, Technology Education, or Electronics place at their centers to the backplane. When the device is bent the spaces between the metal plates grows larger and thus the amount of carbon resistor shorted out by each metal square is reduced. When that happens the resistance of the sensor goes up. The response of the sensor is very linear over its flexible range. The sensor can only reliably indicate bending in one direction (into the page as it is pictured here). Multiple sensors can be used to record bending in multiple directions. In order to measure vibrations in the reed of our seismograph it is necessary to use two flex sensors in order to build a "vibration sensor." The reason we must use two flex sensors is that a single flex sensor is only designed to measure deflection in one direction. By mounting one sensor on the right side of the reed and the other on the left side of the reed and then connecting the sensors together as a voltage divider it is possible to measure vibrations in our seismograph. When the reed moves to the right the right side sensor deflects and measures a result while the left side outputs zero change (since it can't measure changes in that direction). The reverse is true when the reed moves to the left. As a result it is possible to build a sensor profile that relates the voltage output of the voltage divider to the amount of deflection of the reed at any given moment. By recording that value vs. time we can see vibrations as they occur and compare their magnitude to each other. (just like in a "real" seismograph). Before you can measure vibrations with your sensor and a probeware interface such as CoachLab or CBL you must first connect both sensors together as a voltage divider and then by experiment and by interpolation create a mathematical profile that relates the amount and direction of deflection to the voltage coming out of the voltage divider network. In our example we will use CoachLab II's analog input. In the first image on the right you see the two flex sensors (variable resistors) connected in series with each other to form a voltage divider network. Five volts D.C. is applied to one side of the voltage divider network and zero volts (or ground) is connected to the other side. The center tap of the two sensors (resistors) is the output of your sensor and will have a voltage that is in some way proportional to the amount and direction of movement of your seismograph. Each flex sensor varies between thirty thousand Ohms and forty thousand Ohms depending on the level of flex.

To connect the sensor to CoachLab we simply soldered cables to the sensors and placed 4-mm banana jack connectors on the other end. CoachLab II has 4-mm banana jack connectors for analog inputs and there is also a BT to 4-mm adapter available that will work with TI-CBL, TI-CBL2, ULAB, and Vernier LabPro. We used two sensors in our experiment so we color coded the sensors with red and blue heat shrink tubing (that was also used to insulate the solder joints). By experiment or by calculation (using Ohm's law) we can determine the values for the voltage output of the sensor at any It was necessary to connect the sensors to our structures using given deflection. For simplicity sake we'll pick three points, zero paper clips. Since the top surface of the sensor (with metal flex, 100% flex to the left, and 100% flex to the right. squares) is not insulated we simply slipped a piece of paper between the sensor and the metal paper clips. We wanted By using a volt meter and deflecting the reed of our students to be able to see the sensor so we could describe how seismograph manually we can determine that at zero flex the it worked so we left the paper "loose" but you may wish to glue output of the sensor is approximately 2.500 volts. At 100% left paper or very thin plastic in place permanently over your own deflection the output is 2.857 volts. At 100% right deflection the sensor. output is 2.143 volts. phone: 336.506.6696 (9-5 est) fax: 866.306.3016 (toll free) twitter: twitter.com/reinventor32 twitter: www.youtube.com/reinventor32 document:www.scribd.com/reinventor32

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Build your own Seismograph!
An activity for Earth Science, Physical Science, Technology Education, or Electronics We can now create a graph with deflection on one axis and voltage on the other and by drawing a straight line through the three points we have determined we can then interpolate any other value of voltage vs. deflection. (see graph below) Your results may vary since each resistor is slightly different and each volt meter might be calibrated slightly differently. Another way to get these values is through calculations and Ohm's law. Calculating your sensor profile using Ohm's Law To calibrate your sensor for use with CoachLab or another probeware device you can also use Ohm's law and a few facts about electricity in order to calculate values for any given deflection. Facts: • Ohm's Law: Voltage = Current * Resistance • In a series circuit the current flowing through each device is • the same and can therefore be measured at any point in the circuit.

• •

In a series circuit the total resistance is equal to the some of each individual resistance.
In a series circuit the voltage drop across each component can be added together to determine the total voltage drop for the entire circuit (which is also equal to the supply voltage, in this case 5 volts) At zero deflection each flex sensor has a value of thirty thousand Ohms.

• •

At maximum deflection (100%) each flex sensor has a value of forty thousand Ohms.
At zero deflection the total resistance of the sensor is sixty thousand ohms (30K + 30K) At 100% right deflection the total resistance of the sensor is seventy thousand ohms (30K + 40K) At 100% left deflection the total resistance of the sensor is seventy thousand ohms (40K + 30K)

From these facts you can find:

• • •

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Build your own Seismograph!
An activity for Earth Science, Physical Science, Technology Education, or Electronics Using Ohm's Law...
Deflection Zero 100% Left 100% Right 50% Right Resistance 30K + 30K 40K + 30K 30K + 40K 50K + 35K Voltage Sensor 1 2.5 Volts 2.857 Volts 2.143 Volts 2.682 Volts Voltage Sensor 2 2.5 Volts 2.143 Volts 2.857 Volts 2.308 Volts Circuit Current 0.0000833 A 0.0000714 A 0.0000714 A 0.0000769 A

Tips for Setting Up This CoachLab Activity:

You can now use these calculated values to calibrate Coach Software and create a sensor profile. •

NOTE: Calculated values may be different that those observed during actual testing due to the fact that each component is slightly different and their resistance and circuit voltage are not perfect. Setting up the Coach Activity In order to record data from your Seismograph and a probeware interface such as CoachLab, ULAB, or TI-CBL you must do the following:

Using Percentage to indicate the amount of vibration allows for a wider range of tolerance in your actual sensor. This use of Percentage as a unit of measure should be used in the sensor profile and on any graphs used to display the seismograph data. When setting up a graph for seismograph data it is desirable to assign ranges of -10 to +10 % to -15 to +15 % since the reed in the seismograph is rarely going to spike above these values. By confining the graph to this range details of the vibration are easier to see. When setting up a graph for seismograph data it is useful to use a background grid. Measurement time should be confined to the duration of the experiment at hand. If you are simply recording vibrations from footsteps or dropping weights then 30 to 60 seconds is good. If you are using the seismograph to measure vibrations of a shake table then set the duration for slightly longer than you predict will be necessary to show damage or vibration to the structure under test. Measurement frequency should be set in multiples of 50 to 55 samples per second and/or some value equally divisible into 5 cycles per second. (This is done to avoid picking up noise from 60 Hz devices and/or to match a harmonic of the 5 cycles per second that most earth quakes take on {also the resonant frequency of most structures that are 5 to 10 stories tall}). Experiment with settings outside of your classroom or lab before finalizing on the final recording activity used by your students.

1) Create a sensor profile for your dual-flex sensor based
on the values you calculated or observed above.

2) Set up the basic activity including setting up graphs,
recording time, and recording frequency.

3) Connect your sensor and record data.

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Build your own Seismograph!
An activity for Earth Science, Physical Science, Technology Education, or Electronics Lesson Ideas by Discipline Tech Card Materials

Now that you have constructed a seismograph, added a sensor Tech Card Materials are available in the US from “The Science to it, and created a Coach activity that can be used to observe Source” at http://www.thesciencesource.com and record data here are some ideas for using this sensor in your own classroom or lab: Earth Science • • • • • Demonstrating Vibrations as they travel through materials. Demonstrating Vibrations similar to those in earthquakes. Showing how Seismographs are used to predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Using two seismographs) Showing how vibrations change as they travel from one material to another. Demonstrating how different intensity vibrations effect soils, solid earth, and structures.

Physical Science/Physics • • • • Demonstrating Vibrations and Oscillations. Demonstrating Damped Oscillations. Demonstrating how vibrations travel through different solids. Relating vibrations to Earth Science.

Tech Card Base

Technology Education • • • Demonstrating the role of vibrations in damaging structures. Designing ways to "earthquake-proof" structures. (Using a variable shake table) Determining the resonant frequency of a structure.

Electronics • • • • Teaching and demonstrating how to design and calibrate sensors Teaching and demonstrating Ohm's Law in action Teaching and demonstrating how "Flex Sensors" work Teaching and demonstrating how to interface an analog sensor to a digital computer Tech Card C-Beam and L-Beam

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