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ISU Structural Dynamics Laboratory can test ability of structures to withstand earthquakes

September 21, 2017

Professor Mashal with students posing at the Structural Laboratory at the Engineering Researh Complex
Mustafa Mashal, left, with ISU students who worked on refurbishing the new labs.

POCATELLO – The Idaho State University Engineering Research Complex’s Structural Dynamics Laboratory can test the ability of structures to withstand earthquakes.

“We have shake tables that can simulate earthquakes in our Structural Dynamics Lab,” said Mustafa Mashal, ISU assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We can plug in a record of any earthquake and put a smaller scale model of the structure on top of it to test, simulating a real-life earthquake in a small lab and measure and observe the response of the structure during the earthquake.”

Mustafa Mashal portraitThese shake tables were dormant for several years. Student employees supervised by the faculty and experts have been refurbishing them over the last year.  There is one horizontal shake table and one vertical shake table equipped by expensive servo-valve dynamic actuators that were given to ISU by the Idaho National Laboratory many years ago. These tables can be used to help check the vulnerability to earthquakes and vibration of bridges, hospitals, schools, commercial and residential buildings, industrial structures as well as non-structural components.

“It is important for this region to have a laboratory to test how seismic activity affects the infrastructure and public and private structures,” Mashal said. “Shake table testing is the most realistic test for simulating an earthquake for structural engineering research.”

The upgraded Structural Dynamics Laboratory features new lighting, serviced hydraulic pumps, painting and new safety protocols for operation. The horizontal shake table was also fitted with a new 4.5-feet by 4.5-feet steel plate.

The Structural Dynamics Laboratory is one of the three facilities at the Engineering Research Complex, which also features a new Structural Laboratory that is also a unique facility in Idaho. The new Structural Lab was largely built in a four-week period. It is capable of testing specimens up to 36 feet in length and 14 feet in height. This lab has an 875 square feet reinforced concrete strong floor, which is 2 feet thick and includes 374 anchor sleeves in grids of 18 inches. The lab can collectively produce a force of up to 1.3 million pounds to test large-scale structural models.

Offices and other laboratories associated with the structural and earthquake engineering research have also been renovated. Almost all renovation and construction work was done by civil engineering student employees, which is very uncommon.

A grand opening for the new Structural Laboratory and renovated Structural Dynamics Lab in the Engineering Research Complex will be held Oct. 12. The Engineering Research Complex is located on 1030 South Second Avenue in Pocatello.