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Tuned Mass Damper

Earthquake Resistant Buildings

Lesson plan and more resources are

available at:
Hacking STEM
Hacking STEM is a free resource for teachers, delivering inquiry and project-
based lessons that complement current STEM curriculum.In this project we
explore earthquakes.

Using Computational Thinking to

Understand Earthquakes
For this lesson weve partnered with the California Academy of Sciences
(CAS) and Public Media for Northern California (KQED). We encourage you to
explore the CAS lesson plan Earthquakes and Tectonic Plates that provides
Lesson Plan
students with an understanding of seismic waves and how to use earthquake
data to predict the locations of tectonic plates.
Contains materials lists, lesson plans
For educators looking to integrate computer science projects into their and activities to support teaching this
existing earth science curriculum, weve added two NGSS aligned activities that project, mapped to the NGSS and ISTE
use coding in support of scientific inquiry. The first is a one-hour activity that standards.
focuses on building a seismograph to measure and visualize seismic activity.
In the second activity, students model how engineers incorporate tuned mass Go to:
dampers in skyscraper design to make them resistant to earthquake damage.
for these and other resources.

03 Activity Overview

04 Things Youll Need

05 Tuned Mass Damper Instructions

12 Connecting the Microcontroller

14 Excel Workbook Basics

15 Tuned Mass Damper Pattern


Activity Overview Hack our projects

This activity can be done independently or in conjunction with the Earthquakes and We love innovation and
Tectonic Plates lesson plan developed by the California Academy of Science and Public encourage you to hack
Media for Northern California (KQED). our activities and make
them your own.

Tuned Mass Damper

In this activity, your team will model how engineers use technology in skyscraper
design to make them resistant to earthquake damage. You will construct a model

skyscraper equipped with a tuned mass damper, similar to the one installed in the
Taipei 101 Tower. Participants use materials such as dowels, paper plates, plywood,
bolts, and washers. Finally, a microcontroller will be added to study the impact of
the earthquake, both with and without the tuned mass damper, allowing for digital Steps for success
Weve indicated
important steps with a
Data Visualization rocket ship. Use extra
care and precision when
you see the rocket to
This customized Excel worksheet visualizes pendulum movement and building sway,
ensure great results!
while allowing for observation and recording of Live Data. Recorded data can be
saved into the Trial Data section for comparison and analysis.

Substituting everyday

Similar items can be

substituted for most
materials according to

21st century technical skills explored in this activity include:

Sourcing specialized

You can find an online

shopping list for this
entire lesson at:

What youll need
Materials Toolkit
2 paper plates, 22 cm diameter scissors
1 drinking straw masking tape
5 dowels, 4.75 mm diameter 92 cm long hot glue gun + glue sticks
1 rubber grommet, 4 mm diameter drill (4.75 mm bit)
1 1/4-20 thread size bolt and wingnut awl or punch
23 metal washers marker & pencil
2 screws, 4 cm long utility knife
1 insulated ring terminal philips head screwdriver
1 square of plywood, 30 cm x 30 cm x 1.25 cm meter stick
1 scrap of cardboard at least 20 cm x 20 cm
1 Adafruit Circuit Playground microcontroller
4 thumb tacks Start with the technical requirements at:
1 micro USB cable, 2 meters long
1 C-clamp
1 TMD pattern (p. 14)

Get links to all materials online in this Excel

spreadsheet: This symbol indicates steps that
require extra care and precision.

Construct building and foundation
1 2

Print and cut out the template (pg. 14). Align the center of Tape down the template so that it doesnt move.
the template to the center of the back of the plate.

3 4

Carefully cut a slit through both the template and the plate Place a second plate underneath the first, taping them
along the Slot Guide. together.

5 6

Repeat Step 3 to cut through the second plate. Make an X on the rim of the plate where each of the Dowel
Location Guides end.

7 8

Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner of the wood Line up the Dowel Location Guides on the base, and
base to make an X. use thumbtacks to temporarily hold the plate in place.

9 10

Use a piece of masking tape on the drill bit to use as a depth Drill through each X on the plate rim. When done, remove
guide, to prevent yourself from drilling all the way through the plate from the plywood.
the plywood.

11 12

Cut a straw into four 6 cm pieces. The straw pieces will act as holders for the dowels.

13 14

Mark one of your scissor blades 2 cm from the tip. Insert the Repeat three times to form equally spaced petals, folding
scissors up to that point, then snip the straw. them open.

15 16

Twist each of these into the holes in the top plate rim. Securely tape down the open petals.

17 18

Repeat this step three more times. Turn the plate over.

19 20

Mark each straw 2.5 cm up from the plate then fold it. Wrap tape around the closed fold.

21 22

Repeat this step for each straw. Cut your cardboard into three pieces, each about 5 cm x 5
cm or so.

23 24

Hot glue a piece of cardboard over the slot you made earlier. Glue a second piece at a wide angle, next to the first.

25 26

Glue the third piece of cardboard, also at a wide angle to Glue a washer to the center panel, on the bottom edge.
give the pendulum support. Glue the seams between the
panels as well.

27 28

Repeat on the opposite side of the center cardboard panel. Clear the inside hole of the washer of paper and glue.


Once the hole is cleared you can move to the next phase of
the project.

Make the pendulum
1 2

Score a dowel with your scissors or blade and snap it to 37 Hot glue an insulated ring terminal to the end of the dowel.
cm in length.

3 4

Slide 20 washers onto the dowel. Use the rubber grommet to keep the washers on the

5 6

Connect the pendulum to the base with a bolt, washer, and Drill two screws into the base 11 cm in from each side, 2 cm
wing nut, keeping it loose enough to allow the pendulum to from the front of the base.
7 8

Place the dowels into the holes you drilled in the base Slip the top of the dowels into the straws in the paper plate.
earlier. Wrap tape around the ends if needed for a snug fit.

9 10

Align the X axis of the Circuit Playground with the slot Tape the Circuit Playground directly over the slot. Connect
on the top of the paper plate. the USB cord and tape it to one of the dowels.

11 12

Clamp down a large book and rubber band to a table. Place Tape the meter stick on the side of the damper base. Mark
the TMD next to the book and attach the rubber band to 10 cm and 20 cm lengths from the front of the damper. Pull
the two screws. the damper back to both the 10 and 20 cm guides alterna-
tively and release to test the difference in the readings.

Congratulations! You completed the Tuned Mass Damper. You are ready to visualized data!

Connect the microcontroller
1 2

Connect your Circuit Playground to your computer with the Go to and download the flash code.
micro USB cord. Next, you will need to install the Arduino
IDE which you can access through the Technical Require-
ments link on the lesson page at:

3 4

Open your downloaded file to launch the Arduino App. Next, select: Tools > Port > COM3 (Adafruit Circuit
Playground) Your com port may be different than COM3.

5 6

Then select Tools > Board: Adafruit Circuit Playground. Click on the circular right arrow button to upload.
Get ready to visualize data
To complete the full project, make sure you meet these technical requirements:

PC running Windows 10, and Excel 2016 (Desktop)

Project Cordoba Add-In: Update your existing copy of Microsoft Excel 2016 with a free add-in to support real-time data
streaming from your projects available at:
Customized Excel Workbook available at:

Excel workbook basics

Pendulum & Building Sway

View pendulum activity and building sway here, based on your

tuned mass damper.

Live Data
The Live Data view allows you to see current readings coming from your device.

Trial Data
Use the Save Trial data buttons to take a snapshot of the current live data. When you save trial data, it will be displayed in the
Trial Data section. To remove data from the trials, select the Clear All Trials > button. This will clear the Data Comparison
charts and numeric data stored in the Trial Data section.

TMD Pattern

Dowel Location Guides

Dowel Location Guides