Modeling Elastic Rebound: The Earthquake Machine Lite


In this activity students explore a mechanical model of a fault to teach how energy is stored elastically in rocks and released suddenly as an earthquake.


Grades 5 to 12


45 to 50 Minutes


  1. Define earthquakes and model their occurrence using the earthquake machine.
  2. Describe the role of inquiry in the process of science.
  3. Give examples of why models are important in science
  4. Develop necessary understanding of the Earthquake Machine to allow future exploration.

Supporting Resources

Slideshow and supporting files to accompany this activity (Download 3MB)

Hubenthal, M., Braile, L., Taber, J. (2008) Redefining earthquakes and the earthquake machine. The Science Teacher, 75(1), 32-36

Background information on the  Earthquake Machine Lite and the concepts it can be used to convey.

Hall-Wallace, M. (1998) Can Earthquakes Be Predicted? Journal of Geoscience Education, 46, 439-449.

EQ Machine Lite: Activity 2 - Be sure to see the follow-on activity where students use the model to collect emperical data to argue eithe for or against various statements about Earthquakes.