Question Sheet: Rocking the House


Before reading:

  1. Describe what might happen to the contents of your room in an earthquake. 
  2. How might engineers figure out what could happen to a house in an

    earthquake? Why would they want to do that?

During reading:

  1. Why would scientists build an 1,800-square-foot home, then try to destroy


  2. Describe a wood-frame house. 
  3. What was the purpose of having eight webcams in the test house? 
  4. What does a shake table do? 
  5. What did engineers learn from the experiment? 
  6. How might this research affect building codes?

After reading:

  1. Why and when would you want to do experiments on full-scale models of

    buildings, airplanes, and other structures instead of just on miniature models? 

  2. What is a building code? Does your community have a building code? If it

    does, what sorts of things does the code specify? See 

  3. What does a civil engineer do? Why would a civil engineer be interested in

    earthquakes? See Society of Civil Engineers). 

  4. If the scientists doing the earthquake test were using the scientific

    method, what would their hypothesis be? 

  5. Why might it be difficult to build a house that’s completely safe in an

    earthquake? See (U.S.

    Geological Survey). 

  6. Compare and contrast the differences between studying a house that has been

    destroyed by an earthquake and one created and destroyed in a simulated

    earthquake (as in the article).


Name three places (other than Japan and California) where earthquakes are likely to occur. Are earthquakes likely were you live?


  1. Write a review of the videos at at Buffalo). Are these videos useful to people worried about earthquakes? How does looking at the actual videos of the project change your understanding of this earthquake research? 
  2. Look at the earthquake preparedness manual at (U.S. Geological Survey). Write your own manual for kids about how to prepare for an earthquake. What are the main points you would include?


Suppose that it takes two straps, each 25 inches long, to strap a water heater to the wall to keep it from falling over during an earthquake. There are 420 homes in your town. If people in 80 percent of the homes strapped their water heater to the wall, how many yards of strapping material would it take?