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T3 Alaska Program

T3 Alaska Earth Observation Club Presents at Seismology Annual Meeting

Thirty T3 Alaska students presented their fascinating group projects to seismology professionals at the Seismological Society of American Annual Meeting in Anchorage this month. The students are part of the Earth Observation Club, a statewide T3 Alaska Club funded by the Alaska Earthquake Center.

In the club, students learn field instrumentation skills and build sensor stations complete with housing, power, and the communication components necessary for earth monitoring. While learning these technologies, the students engage in project-based research focused on environmental issues within their communities.

“In project-based learning, students can learn things but also really apply them,” Low said. “And in the T3 program, the community-engagement component is where students can do project-based learning, do cool projects, but directly relate them to a community need.”

Environmental monitoring is essential because it impacts daily life, often in catastrophic ways, such as erosion, earthquakes, and inclement weather. Communities in Alaska face challenges with all of these and need data to help make informed decisions.

Bethel, for example, is prone to flooding, which can cause extensive property loss and be life-threatening. Bethel Regional High School junior John Brink presented the sensor solution his team designed to meet the challenge: a water level monitor utilizing a sonic sensor that measures water depth and could notify homeowners how much water is under their house.

In Chevak, Liam, Merlin, and John are monitoring the eroding hillside of the main river system. The city has already had to move houses in response to the loss of land. The students have cameras set up to monitor and collect data, which will be given to the city council to help inform their decision-making process.

Southeast Sitka is affected by earthquakes, which cause dangerous landslides. For their project, the students installed earthquake monitors in multiple locations to develop a system to warn their community and prepare in advance. This will help community members, “That way they are more prepared. They don’t get hit by it.” said Sierra Isaak

After their presentations, the students attended the conference where they met representatives from companies and interest groups. While talking with others, the students realized how much interest earth monitoring creates and the opportunities that go with having those skills. “I think the symposium has a lot of opportunities. There are so many companies that want to learn about earthquakes.” They also learned about other technologies and want to bring them back to their communities. “There’s a lot of technologies here that you can bring back to your rural villages and use them.”

Students came to the conference from several rural and remote areas of Alaska, including Bethel Lower Yukon, Chevak, North Pole High School, Quinhagak, Seward, Shishmaref, Sitka, Wrangell, and the Kusilvak Career Academy in Anchorage.

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