NEES@UC San Diego shake table wins Best of What's New award from Popular Science

November 14, 2013  

NEES UC San Diego

The NEES@UC San Diego shake table, at 25-by-40 feet, can simulate the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. (Photo provided/NEES).
Download Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The biggest outdoor shake table in the world has received a Best of What's New award from Popular Science, the world's largest science and technology magazine. The project is featured in the magazine's December issue, now on newsstands.

The Large High-Performance Outdoor Shake Table can handle structures weighing up to 2,200 tons without height restrictions. The table's powerful hydraulic actuators - piston-like devices - can move at up to 6 feet per second, creating realistic simulations of the most devastating earthquakes ever recorded.

"The Best of What's New Awards is our magazine's top honor, and the 100 awardees are selected from a pool of thousands," said Cliff Ransom, executive editor of Popular Science. "Each winner is handpicked and revolutionary in its own way. Whether they're poised to change the world or simply your living room, the Best of What's New awardees challenge us to the see the future in a new light."   

UC San Diego Englekirk Center

Engineers at UC San Diego's Englekirk Center tested in May 2008 the seismic response of precast concrete floor systems that are used in parking garages, college dormitories, hotels, stadiums, prisons and increasingly in office buildings. The shake table was recognized with a Best of What's New award in Popular Science's December issue. (Photo provided/NEES).
Download Photo

UC San Diego's shake table, housed at the Englekirk Structural Engineering Center in Scripps Ranch, Calif., has been used to test everything from wind turbines to masonry, wood-frame and precast concrete buildings, as well as non-structural building elements such as stairs, elevators and even hospital equipment.

The table is part of the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, or NEES, an initiative funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Purdue University. NEES has 14 such earthquake simulation sites across the country.

"The NEES-UCSD shake table is a unique and very important tool for knowledge discovery in earthquake hazard mitigation, i.e., to better understand how to protect structures from earthquakes," said Joel Conte, a structural engineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and one of the co-principal investigators for the shake table.

The 25-by-40-foot table is the largest in the United States and is used by researchers from around the nation.

"The research findings will have a profound impact on the seismic resilience of the built environment worldwide," said José Restrepo, also a UC San Diego professor in the Department of Structural Engineering and co-PI.

Most recently, a team from Colorado State University tested seismic retrofits on a so-called soft-story wood-frame building, with an open first floor and three stories of apartments above. The open-plan first floor is particularly vulnerable during earthquakes. The tests were featured in a recent NOVA segment of "Making Stuff Safer" on PBS.

Last year, a team of researchers led by UC San Diego engineers put to the test a fully equipped 5-story building, which included an intensive care unit, a surgery suite, piping and air conditioning, fire barriers and a working elevator.

The goal of that $5 million project was to help determine what can be done to ensure high-value buildings, such as hospitals and data centers, remain operational following an earthquake. Researchers also assessed whether the building's fire barriers were affected by the shakes.

The table has often been in the media spotlight over the years for similar tests with stories on PBS, NBC, CBS and ABC News, the Discovery Channel and The New York Times, among others. 

Media contacts: Marti LaChance, 765-496-3014, 

Loana Patingenaru, 858-822-0899, 

Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, 

Related websites:

NEES@UC San Diego

NEEShub at Purdue University

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2014-17 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Integrity Statement | Copyright Complaints | Brand Toolkit | Maintained by Marketing and Media

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact us at so we can help.