Earthquake Machine: Basic One block & simple graph animated

How can you model earthquakes in the classroom?

Animation of the single-block "Earthquake Machine", a mechanical model of the earthquake process using a wood block, sandpaper, and rubber bands. The sandpaper represents the contact between the "plates" and the rubber band represents the elastic nature of the lithosphere. This model shows how "Forces, Faults, and Friction" interact as elastic energy is slowly stored when the rubber back stretches and then is rapidly released as the block jerks during an "earthquake". On the graph, the yellow line shows the movement of the hand over time, thus a steady line. The blue line shows the movement of the block during slip on "earthquakes" thus the jumps in distance over time.


  • Model for Forces, Faults, & Friction
  • Rubber band represents the elastic nature of the lithosphere
  • Sandpaper models friction between the plates
  • Energy is slowly stored, and is released unpredictably

Level: Novice

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