KDU engineering students challenged by earthquake simulator

In the STEM 101 Earthquake Simulator competition, students were challenged to design, build and test their structures against earthquake tremors.

Team 1 members Low Yi En (from left), Francis Kasaila and Calvin Soo Shui Zhen nervously observe their model structure being measured on the Earthquake Stimulator to test how firm it could withstand the tremors.

In view of the Sabah earthquake in 2015, the School of Engineering at KDU University College recently challenged its Foundation in Engineering students in the STEM 101 Earthquake Simulator competition to design, build and test their structures against earthquake tremors.

This inaugural competition based on STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – was held not only to impart the fundamental knowledge of engineering, but also to train students to think creatively of design methods for structures to withstand earthquakes, based on the concept of physics.

“This competition serves as a platform to introduce STEM education to our foundation students. STEM integrates the four disciplines into cohesive learning and applies it based on real-world application,” explained Associate Professor Ir Dr Matthew Teow Yok Wooi, Head of the School of Engineering (SoE) at KDU University College.

Students were able to take their learning beyond the classroom and apply what they learnt first-hand: The seven-hour competition provided an opportunity for the students to further explore and exploit how engineering could be applied in the real world and had fun at the same time.

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SoE lecturer and competition facilitator Mr Muneswaran a/l Suthaskumar (2nd left) clearing doubts raised by the participants.


“This event also serves as a networking platform where the students are able to communicate with their course mates, thus developing their communication skills. The School expects each and every participant to think beyond the box, as they need to exhibit creative solution, a good engineering design without omitting aesthetic aspects and also portray a good project management.”

Participants were divided into groups of three, and could work with any of the materials provided by the organiser. Each group, moreover, was limited to a set number of each item. The materials included items such as ice cream sticks, straws, manila cards, plastic cups and cello tapes. On top of that, each group were given a set of electronic devices which consists of 9 V batteries, mercury switch, buzzer, LED and resistors.

The groups were full of excitement as they took to their brain-storming sessions; tapping vigorously on their scientific calculators and coming up with measurements, with some pondering on the feasibility of their proposed design, while others began to sketch out what they had in mind.

Without any prior practice or training, the event saw the groups enthusiastically applying what they had learnt so far and trying to solve the given problem right on the spot – building a model structure with a measurement of 60 x 35 x 35 cm, and an alarm system assembled by electronic devices in the middle of it.

Finally, models built by each team were placed onto the Earthquake Simulator and tested with simulated tremors along two perpendicular directions.

The panel of judges, comprised of SoE lecturers, were led by Head Judge Dr Veronica Lestari Jauw, together with Dr Ha Tshui Hung, Associate Professor Ir. Dr Aravinthan Arumugam and Ir. Cheang Kok Meng. Marks were given according to the height, base area, survival and engineering or aesthetic design of the buildings and structures.

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Winning teams displaying their models, togetherwith the Head of School and the panel of judges.


Eventually, Team 1 emerged as Overall Champion and the winner of the Aesthetic Design Award. The group comprised of Low Yi En, whose contribution of utilising ice-cream sticks helped strengthen their winning structure, Calvin Soo Shui Zhen and Francis Kasaila.

Soo quipped, “We thoroughly enjoyed this! The competition is all about translating our theoretical knowledge to practical application and we had a lot of fun through this hands-on learning.”

Three other awards were also up for grabs – won by the following teams: Engineering Design Award – Team 2 (Haran A/L Murali, Muhamad Fadhl Masri); Creative Solution Award – Team 3 (Tan Khai Jern, Darshan A/L Ramesan, Pravin A/L Rajendran); Project Management Award – Team 5 (Thanesh A/L Gunaselan, Mehervan Singh, Ahmad Syahmi Naqiuddin Mohamad).

To find out how you can hit the ground running with KDU University College, log on to www.kdu.edu.my or call 03-5565 0538 (KDU University College, Utropolis, Glenmarie) / 03-7953 6688 (KDU College, Damansara Jaya).

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