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Students make waves with aftershock analysis

14 Nov 2008

It started out as an investigation for a science lesson – but the results were something altogether more significant. After all, it cannot be every day that work done by a group of teenagers in Hinckley is used for scientific analysis around the world. The A-level geology students at the town's John Cleveland College made some of the world's best recordings of huge aftershocks following last month's earthquake in Pakistan. You can find some of them at

Experts from the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the geology department from the University of Leicester were so impressed they visited the school to review their results.

The students monitor graphs on a daily basis drawn by their seisometer – lent to them by BGS and the only one of its kind in a Leicestershire school – and they have been bowled over by the quality of information it has produced.

A-level pupil Grant Cooke, 17, said it felt strange to be able to see October's earthquakes – most notably in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Herefordshire – making waves in the Hinckley classroom.

He said: "We were surprised when the people at the British Geological Survey said they hadn't picked it up so we called them to tell them about our data.

"We're pleased they came to see our results and go through them with us. It helps us all learn more.

"It's great to be able to see this data for ourselves. In fact, we'd seen what was happening somewhere in the world ages before it even made the news. That's when it's brought home to you."

Officials said up to 300 people were killed in the earthquake in Pakistan's south-west Balochistan province on Wednesday, October 29.

Up to 50,000 people are thought to be homeless following the quake, which measured 6.4 on the Richter scale.

Student Michael Ives, 17, said: "It's given us a first-hand view of the earthquakes as they've happened.

"Otherwise we'd have just been looking at other people's data on the internet. This is real."

Paul Denton, of BGS, said he hoped the analysis had inspired the group to pursue their interest in science.

He said: "This is all part of making science interesting and trying to address the decline in students studying it at university.

"It's harder to get a good grade at a science A-level than it is in media studies or psychology but the impact on the UK of schools not pushing students to do science is a growing concern.

"It's quite worrying where the next generation of scientists and engineers are going to come from."