Engineering students at ISU recently finished renovating the Structural Dynamics Laboratory as well as building an entirely new Structural Laboratory. This was done with the assistance of Mustafa Mashal, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.
“When I arrived here last year,” Mashal said, “I discovered that ISU had some good facilities that could be used for research in engineering.”
These facilities included the Structural Dynamics Laboratory, which was home to two shake tables that had been unused for many years. Part of the renovation of the lab was to refurbish the tables, which Mashal hopes to use to assess the resilience of buildings and other structures against earthquakes.
The shake tables work by entering the data from any given earthquake into a computer; the table then shakes in that exact pattern. By putting small scale models of structures on top of the table, the shake tables can tell researchers exactly how those structures will react to the earthquake.
The lab features both vertical and horizontal shake tables, which Mashal said are quite unique and expensive equipment.
“Not many universities have shake tables,” he said. “And the cylinder on each shake table costs about $100,000.”
Research collected from the shake tables will be published in an effort to increase the resiliency of buildings and structures in Idaho, particularly southeast Idaho, which according to Mashal is the most seismically active part of the state.
“It’s not the quake that kills people honestly,” Mashal said. “It’s the buildings, and these shake tables will tell you what type of buildings could be vulnerable.”
According to Mashal, old and damaged buildings are the most at risk, but it’s the construction of a building, more than the particular material it is made with, that makes it vulnerable to earthquakes.
At the same time the Structural Dynamics Laboratory was being renovated, students built a new Structural Laboratory with a strong floor, in just four weeks.
While the Structural Dynamics, or shake table, Laboratory is primarily used for fast testing, the Structural Laboratory is mainly used for slow testing. The strong floor in the lab is two feet deep and features 374 anchor sleeves in grids of 18 inches. According to the Mashal Research Group website, it is capable of testing large-scale specimens over 36 feet in length and 14 feet in height, and the hydraulic actuators can collectively produce a force of over 1.3 million pounds.
“We want to use this facility for teaching and research,” Mashal said. “We want to try to get our communities more resilient.”
A grand opening for both the Structural Dynamics Laboratory and the new Structural Laboratory will be held in the Engineering Research Complex on October 12, 2017.