Student Seismology Research Station – Seismometer and Magnetometer Recording Via Computer Sound Card

(Seismology = the study of earthquakes
Seismometer = device for measuring earthquakes
Magnetometer = device for measuring magnetic fields)

One cannot ordinarily record earthquakes via a computer sound card as they don’t respond much to the slow vibrations experienced in earthquakes. However, with some cheap electronic trickery and clever software, it can be done, and very adequately for the purposes of study. The seismometer above, made by a high school student, in its first night of testing recorded this local 3.8 quake – a magnitude 1 in Taipei:

(click on the pictures for larger versions)

and as a surprise bonus, some filtering of background noise revealed this distant quake as well. It was a 5.9 from 1000 km away in the Philippines.

Continue reading at Kids’ Resource Center . . . .

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Simple Magnetometer Science Project Using Water as Lens

(Click on photos to see full size image.)


A magnetometer such as this can detect small changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. It can be useful to monitor these changes as they may indicate the occurrence of natural phenomena that can influence our lives. Certain kinds of solar activity for example, have the potential to disrupt communications and power systems. Large earthquakes are also known to produce magnetic changes prior to their arrival. (This project was originally intended to work in conjunction with the search coil magnetometer project for predicting earthquakes.)

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“Why don’t they teach kids to be responsible?”

On page 21 of All About Motivation to Learn, the point is made that the current education system contributes to irresponsibility in children. That if they’re allowed no control over their education, if they are not consulted, their thoughts and opinions overruled or ignored, then they will feel no personal responsibility for the result. Much like this learner driver being “pushed out of the driver’s seat.”

Continue reading at Motivation to Learn blog……

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Kids’ Resource Center

See our new blog location for more projects and more articles on education…

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Simple magnetometer for detecting earthquake precursors

(Electronic gadget for predicting earthquakes)


magnetometer: n. [Magneto- + -meter]
An instrument for measuring the intensity of magnetic forces [1913 Webster]

precursor:  One who, or that which, precedes an event, and indicates its
approach; a forerunner [1913 Webster]

Scientists, particularly in Japan, have for many years been gathering evidence of electromagnetic signals that come from under the ground before earthquakes. The bigger the signal, the bigger the quake is likely to be. This can occur hours before, and in some cases, days or even weeks before the quake itself. Why it happens is not well understood but current theory is that it has to do with rocks creating large electric currents as a result of crushing or grinding under high pressure. Several methods have been used to detect these erratic, fast rise-time electromagnetic pulses. The method described here is one of the simplest. Technically, it’s called a “search coil magnetometer.” This does not respond to very slow magnetic changes, but it can sense short-term ones which is suitable for detecting earthquake precursors.


This project is a follow-up to the seismometer project at and is intended as a further way to get children interested in physics and electromagnetic phenomena by presenting it in connection with something relevant to their lives. And with the ever-present threat of earthquakes in Taiwan, the idea of predicting them is particularly interesting. Continue reading

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All About Motivation to Learn

A new book about raising and educating children

After almost seven years, half of that doing the clay models, we have finally gotten this book into print.

It started after I had spent a couple of years teaching English in Taiwan. By that time I had seen many students being “taught” English under terrific duress. I had also met many adults, products of that same system, who had “learned” English, yet who dared not utter a word of it.

This book goes right to the core issues….

For more information, see the web site at

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Field Workshop in Taitung

We sometimes wondered if it would be possible to travel around, running handcraft workshops in other locations. I was skeptical because there are so many tools and materials used in our projects. Forgetting one particular sized screw or nail might ruin a whole workshop.

We had also wondered if it might be possible to assemble some of our projects into kit sets. The main concern being that if too much preparation is done beforehand, the child won’t learn as much, and one might as well buy a ready-made one from the local toy store.

Finally we had an opportunity to try these things out on a small scale….

Shirley had been doing some research into farming methods that don’t involve chemicals of any kind and had come across an interesting blog. It was set up by an electronics engineer, Barkely Lin, who had quit his high-tech job in the city and moved his family to a quiet, unpolluted country town near Taitung in Taiwan’s south-east, where he has been working hard to promote the cause of natural farming. His blog is And by the way, it is not quite the same as organic farming which uses organic fertilizers. Natural farming uses no fertilizers at all. Continue reading

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Recording Earthquakes for Beginners

One of many earthquakes I’ve recorded. This one was a 4.2 around 90 Km away.


In my search for educational projects that can engage a kid’s interest, I recently began looking into seismology (from Ancient Greek, “seismos”, an earthquake and “logia”, study of.)

Being a rather high-tech subject, I was skeptical of my chances of reducing it to something kids could do, but I gave it a shot anyway, since it’s very applicable here in Taiwan, where earthquakes average a couple a day. (You can see them on this website: )

The goal was to come up with some kind of a detector; the simplest and cheapest design possible that a kid could plug into a computer and record real earthquakes. Although still in progress I wanted to share what I’ve done so far as it’s a fascinating field and full of good, observable data that will give anyone a deeper understanding of the planet we live on.

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Summer 2010

With the summer 2010 program just about finished, the most successful project by far has been the 4WD car.

These were the first ones off the production line.

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Wooden Crane

This project is similar to the 4WD car, not only in that the student is working with wood and electrics, but also that the concept of drive ratios is involved. The crane takes this a little further: one can observe how the winch diameter affects lifting speed and power, and the very useful principle of mechanical advantage gained by the two pulleys. When this is taught in schools, it is normally not easy for kids to really get it as a concept; how the addition of pulleys increases the lifting power and reduces the speed. More often than not they only wind up memorizing formulas so they can pass the test and forget about it. But by making and playing with one themselves, they can see first-hand what actually happens when you add pulleys. They no longer need to memorize anything – they just know it.

This is also a lot of fun to play with.

Here are some shots showing the winch construction:

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