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Woodland Hills | VALLEY FOCUS

Students Keep Eye on What's Shaking

September 25, 1997|SYLVIA L. OLIANDE

Each school day at lunch or after classes, several girls at Louisville High School get a glimpse of the earth's constant movement.

In groups of three, they log on to the U.S. Geological Survey site on the World Wide Web and gather information on any earthquake in Southern California, big or small.

The students then walk across campus to the physics room to compare the data with the information they've collected with their school's new seismograph.

"It's scary when you sometimes see big earthquakes in some areas," said student Christina Garcen, 17. "But it's interesting. We see earthquakes that happen every day that you don't hear about in the news because they're not big enough."

"It's kind of cool," added classmate Faria Chohan, 17. "We could be having an earthquake right now and we wouldn't know it."

The seismograph was donated this year to the private girls school by the Los Angeles Physics Teachers' Alliance Group. The data the students collect will be shared through the alliance group with other schools participating in the program, including several in the Valley.

Physics teacher Richard Buck said the students learn how to discern whether the activity the equipment registered during the day was a real earthquake or just a group of students walking in the area. "We set the box up in a place where you get less foot traffic," he said of the seismometer. "But sometimes we get animals burrowing in the ground around it."

The box records the waves of an earthquake, allowing the students to analyze the magnitude, epicenter, energy release and time of a temblor as far as 250 miles away.

Buck said the project is open to all Louisville students interested in science, mathematics, computers and geography.

"It's not a class, it's a club," Buck said. "We don't need to make it a class. We have earth science classes, physics classes. This is just a way to apply that knowledge."

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