Wellington students tasked with creating earthquake early warning devices

Dewi Preece
Source: 1News

Students from across Wellington gathered at the old museum this month to compete for the second CRISiSLab Challenge.

The challenge (short for Crisis Response Integrated Simulation Science) saw schools try and design new early warning systems in case of an earthquake, and is organised by the Joint Centre for Disaster Research of Massey University.

“It is amazing to see what gets achieved during the challenge and to think what could be brought forward in the future of technology and earth sciences,” says Dr Marion Tan, leader of the CRISiSLab Challenge.

READ MORE: Strong 5.8 earthquake near Wellington felt across NZ

Zede Viggers won last year's challenge, and is still juggling year 12 studies at Wellington College with his internship at Massey.

"It's pretty mind-blowing actually how crazy all of this is. I'm actually developing stuff that's being used by people in the real world to actually help save lives from earthquakes," he says.

A variety of early warning systems were on display, from sirens to warning lights, and even a fleet of autonomous drones.

It's hoped the challenge, which is in its second year, will attract more young people into the field.

Wellington High School students show off their disaster response drone

Toka Tū Ake EQC also funded the challenge, and their Manager of Research Natalie Balfour says "it's a really great way to encourage students with careers in STEM, and to let them to learn a little bit about earthquakes and the challenges we see in New Zealand."

The winners of the challenge receive a month-long internship with CRISiS Lab, where they can put some of their ideas into practice.

This year it was Wellington High School students Lev Petersen, Brendan Shaw and Anthony Smith who impressed the judges with their disaster response model, which used seismometer data to trigger drones to warn residents and capture their whereabouts after an earthquake to help rescue efforts.

"I've always been interested in development, I've always been interested in physics, so to some degree these things go hand in hand especially with seismology," says Lev Petersen. "It's been a great experience I'm really thankful."