Students Tackle Seismic Engineering in 2015 Tech Challenge

Photo by Don Feria

Over the weekend, more than 2,000 young innovators participated in this year’s Tech Challenge at The Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose, Calif. Now in its 28th year, this annual event challenges students in grades 4-12 to apply science and engineering design processes in a hands-on project to solve a real-world issue. This year’s challenge was “Building Excitement,” which focused on keeping California’s booming population safe by designing buildings that can withstand large earthquakes.

The 600 student teams were required to build a scaled structure that supports live load and is earthquake safe. The structures were placed on a test rig for a series of three 20-second simulated earthquakes of increasing movement. In between each earthquake simulation, the teams had one minute to repair the structure to help ensure it survived the remaining earthquakes.

Prior to the competition, students were provided months of team learning in science, engineering and math, culminating in the final event April 25-26. Team efforts were celebrated in an awards ceremony, recognizing categories ranging from Best Overall Solution to Sportsmanship.

“It’s impossible to walk away from Tech Challenge weekend and not feel inspired by the tenacity, quick thinking and innovative ideas of young people,” said Tim Ritchie, president and CEO of The Tech Museum of Innovation. “These kids have all it takes to use technology to solve the problems our world faces. It’s up to us to make sure they understand their creative potential. It's up to us to make solving problems so engaging that they become determined to do the hard work of really learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”  

The Tech Challenge program is one of the most diverse science competitions in the country. More than 40% of the competitors are female and almost 40% are students from low-income communities. This year the program was recognized with the Bright Lights Community Engagement Award from the Noyce Foundation, which recognizes outstanding community engagement, particularly in STEM efforts.

For more information and to view this year’s winners, visit