Civil engineering students examine earthquakes using shake table

Savannah Hoag

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Video by Savannah Hoag.

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Colorado is not known for its frequent earthquakes, but Colorado State University is home to a shake table that is able to replicate even the largest of earthquakes. The earthquake simulator has a 35,000 lb actuator with 180 gpm hydraulic fluid flow. 

The structural lab, located on CSU’s Foothills Campus, is not only used for measuring earthquakes, but also other natural disasters. The lab is used by CSU’s Civil Engineering department to focus on the resilience infrastructure of various buildings during extreme natural disasters. 

Hussam Mahmoud, the current director of the structural lab, began his work at CSU five years ago. He is currently transitioning the lab from mechanical to civil engineering.

“We’ve been shifting our focus of the lab to extreme hazards like earthquakes or fires,” Mahmoud said.

The lab is also able to test the infrastructure of buildings in tornadoes and fires, as well as earthquakes. Dr. John W. Van de Lindt, a professor in the Civil Engineering department, helped build the shake table that is able to measure earthquake sizes from all over the world. One of the largest it can recreate is the Northridge earthquake of 1994, recorded at a magnitude of 6.7. 

“Back in 2004 a PhD student of mine built the shake table,” Van de Lindt said. “I have been here 13 years and back then I actually turned some bolts and things.”

Becki Atadero, an assistant professor in the department of Civil Engineering, believes the lab is an important part of gaining experience in the civil engineering field.

“They get to help set up tests, they get to learn about instrumentation and they get to see all of the things that we talk about in class in person and understand what’s going on,” Atadero said.

Mahmoud’s focus in structural engineering allows him to utilize the lab when partnering with large corporations. Back in 2014, CSU was featured on Steelworks.com for their work developing how to save money using advanced analysis for deteriorated steel. 

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Video by Savannah Hoag.

Collegian Reporter Savannah Hoag can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter at @sav_hoag.