The California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) is a four-week, educational summer program for gifted and talented high school students. Science and engineering topics are presented via a variety of "clusters" located at four of the University of California campuses. The "Earthquakes in Action" cluster at UCSD presents basic concepts in geophysics of earthquakes and structural design of building components and systems. It employs hands-on and interactive activities, experimental investigations, relevant site visits, and research-based group projects, all of which are integrated with lectures. Often the laboratory or hands-on exercises involve the introduction to and use of computer programs such as Microsoft Excel for data analysis, Google SketchUp for structural modeling, and Google Earth for geophysics activities.
The goals of the cluster are to present these topics at a high level, meet national math and science program standards for high school students, and to encourage the students to pursue math- and science-based majors at public, in-state universities. Students visit the numerous large-scale structural research facilities on the UCSD campus, and the large, high-performance outdoor shake table at the Englekirk Center, to see first-hand the significance of testing structural systems and components for seismic design. During the four-week program students conduct small research projects that involve background literature searches to learn about science and engineering concepts. In teams of three or four, students design and construct small-scale models and test them on a shake table, develop predictions of structural response, and compare expected structural behavior with measured response observed through the experiments.