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Cal State LA awarded NSF grant for shake table for simulated earthquake testing

October 12, 2015


Cal State LA’s College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology was awarded a $279,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to acquire a shake table for simulated earthquake testing.

This instrument will significantly enhance the research capabilities of the University, allowing faculty to help improve earthquake safety in buildings in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

“The shake table will enable our University to contribute to earthquake safety in our communities for years to come,” said Tonatiuh Rodriguez-Nikl, an assistant professor in civil engineering who was the principal investigator on the NSF grant.

The research comes at a time when elected officials in Los Angeles have made seismic safety a top priority. Just last week, the City Council enacted some of the most stringent regulations in the nation, requiring thousands of buildings to be retrofitted so they can better withstand powerful shaking during a major earthquake.

Cal State LA’s 5-foot-square shake table will have the ability to shake test objects weighing up to one ton at twice the acceleration of gravity. This capability can match the ground shaking expected from the “big one” that could strike the Los Angeles region.

The shake table will also allow students to take part in real-world research opportunities and hands-on classroom demonstrations. This will prepare them to be ideal candidates for jobs and advanced graduate programs in earthquake engineering and related areas.

“Cal State LA engineering students will gain powerful experience in analyzing structural designs for earthquake resilience, a knowledge base critical for our region,” said Emily Allen, dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology. “This type of experience will be invaluable as officials and agencies in Los Angeles and the rest of the West Coast work to improve our ability to withstand the big quakes.”

The shake table will also be used for K-12 outreach opportunities such as Cal State LA’s Summer Transportation Institute.

Faculty in the college have a wide range of uses envisioned for the shake table. Topics include seismic performance of energy efficient residential construction, photovoltaic panels and advanced, renewable materials. The instrument will also allow faculty to collaborate with other professors and industry partners regionally, nationally and internationally. The shake table is expected to be operational in summer 2016.

“Faculty will be able to test earthquake safety measures first-hand in our laboratory,” Rodriguez-Nikl said, “and students will gain invaluable hands-on experience that will help their engineering skills and job prospects.”

Image: Rendering of the shake table. (Credit: Tonatiuh Rodriguez-Nikl/Cal State LA) 

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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and 240,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex, TV, Film and Media Center and the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. For more information, visit