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Students Ready for Fans to ‘Shake it Up’ at Saturday Game

By: Sherry Squires   Published 12:31 pm / September 28, 2011

An example of the data returned by a seismometer

When the Broncos execute their groundbreaking — or at least earth-shaking — plays during Saturday’s match-up against Nevada, Boise State geosciences students will be on hand to capture and measure crowd excitement. Seismic football also will be part of the pre-game and game-time action.

From 10 a.m.-noon, geosciences professor Kasper VanWijk and several graduate and undergraduate students will be on hand on the patio of Boise State’s Environmental Research Building to explain how a newly built seismometer that utilizes a blue and orange bowling ball measures vibrations both above and below ground. The team then will set up near the south end zone during the game to record seismic waves generated by the crowd.

During past measurements, interceptions proved to draw the most earth-shaking reactions from the crowd, surpassing even touchdowns.

“The football game provides us a tremendous outreach opportunity to show what we’re doing at Boise State and create excitement for geosciences,” VanWijk said. “The seismometers are fun, like toys, but they also are precise instruments that pick up earthquakes from around the world.”

Boise State faculty and students have been building seismometers for about five years. Through the Bronco Stadium experiments, students learn to use instruments in field research and collect subsurface information relevant to detailed mapping of earthquake hazards. Members of the university’s Geophysics Club and Boise State Football Seismology Team have presented data collected at Bronco Stadium at academic conferences.

Boise State students also have built seismometers for a handful of K-12 schools around the region and plan to begin building 30-50 of the machines per year by next year to be given to schools around the country.