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Education, Earthquakes and Engineering

This summer, students Charles Cleminson, Teodora Ghiuvea, Calum Jones and Rhys Llewellyn from The Sixth Form College, Farnborough completed a project under the Engineering Education Scheme (EES) in collaboration with SSTL looking at ways to detect signals in space that offer a precursor to earthquakes. Their report was well received by their SSTL and EES mentors, who congratulated them during the award ceremony.
EES award ceremony
EES award ceremony
The EES provides students aged 16 and 17 with experience in engineering, science and technology in order to make informed decisions about their future education and career. Working with SSTL, the project aimed to discover a suitable combination of payloads that would successfully identify and monitor the proposed earthquake precursors through regular measurements on a global-scale using a satellite constellation. According to their very professional end of project paper entitled "A study to examine the feasibility of a constellation of small satellites to detect Earthquake precursor signatures", up to now we have data only from older missions that are not dedicated to earthquake detection. The team found that the main failing of previous missions is the lack of continuous measurements, so that statistics could not be built based on data from previous missions. As such, the team proposed, in addition to finding a reliable short term earthquake precursor, their proposed mission should make statistical studies of space-borne precursors of strong earthquakes possible by continuous monitoring. In summary, this data should lead to improved knowledge of the physics behind earthquakes and hopefully save many lives. The team reviewed a broad range of technologies for detecting earthquakes from correlation with lightning, infra-red emissions, particle precipitation to numerous methods for detecting ionospheric permutations. These were analysed based upon their "prediction capability", a measure of their ability to answer the three main questions of the short term earthquake prediction: When? Where? How strong? Their conclusion: that the global monitoring of short term earthquake precursors from space is possible, but that a satellite constellation is necessary if this information is to be used in practice for short-term earthquake prediction. Aside from the scintillating (no pun intended) discussion of Earthquake detention from space, it was a golden opportunity for the EES scheme team to learn more about space and real world engineering in a commercial environment. SSTL project mentor Dave Sanderson put Space Blog in touch with two of the team members, Rhys and Teodora to talk about their experiences and their future career aspirations.





11 August 20100 Comments1 Comment

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