August 5, 1998


A new educational tool that allows students to track earthquake motions from their classrooms is now available online at a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) web site.

The project is part of the Southern California Integrated GPS Network (SCIGN), an array of 250 Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers that continuously measure the constant, yet barely perceptible, movements of earthquake faults throughout Southern California.

"The project was motivated because many of our GPS stations are being placed at schools. We wanted students to have an opportunity to be involved in the project, however the web pages have been developed for use in any school. They are also available to the general public and other organizations such as libraries," said Dr. Frank Webb, a JPL geophysicist and the executive chairman of SCIGN. "These web pages use earthquakes as a starting point and we hope the site will enable students to look at and use real data to solve problems. Also, in the event of an earthquake, they'll be able to get online and see how their area moved as a result of the earthquake."

The pages are available at

"The site is designed for high school and beginning college students, but middle school teachers have told us they can use parts of it too," said Maggi Glasscoe, the SCIGN team member who designed the pages. "Our hope is to illustrate math concepts, such as reading a graph, help students learn how to do research and encourage them to explore concepts ranging from plate tectonics and earthquake faults to earth science and physics. We've included a lot of animation and graphics that we hope will get students excited."

The Southern California Earthquake Center is working with the team to have the educational pages reviewed by educators to meet current curriculum guidelines of the state of California.

At this time, there are about 50 GPS receivers in place around Southern California with new sites being added every week. The earthquake network began in 1990 with only four GPS receivers as a prototype project funded by NASA. It detected very small motions of Earth's crust in Southern California associated with other California earthquakes in June 1992 in Landers, and in January 1994 in Northridge.

SCIGN is a consortium of institutions with a common interest in using GPS for earthquake research and mitigation. The consortium is coordinated by the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center headquartered at the University of Southern California (USC). The lead institutions in the installation and operation of SCIGN are JPL, the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics-Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, the United States Geological Survey, and USC.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

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