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What do LEGO® Bricks, Mars and Football have in Common? Seismology!

On 5th May 2018, the InSight Mission to Mars was launched

The InSight Mission will put seismometers onto the surface of Mars to feel for ‘Marsquakes’  – geological activity like our Earthquakes. It has been 40 years since seismometers were last placed on the planet, using the Viking landers. However, it is the first time a seismometer will be placed directly onto Mars’ surface.

InSight successfully landed on Martian soil on Monday 26th November 2018 at 19:33 UTC.

Once the lander has got to work, scientists hope to receive the first  of its data in early 2019.

Along with the seismometer, the InSight has on board a host of other tools and sensors including: environmental sensors like wind and pressure, to help eliminate false positives with the seismometer; very precise radio transmitters, to help map the wobbles in how Mars rotates, allowing us to figure out whether Mars’ core is solid or liquid; and finally, a five meter long heat probe, which will bore itself into the surface of Mars, allowing scientists to monitor how heat travels through the planet.  All in all, we will hopefully be able to finally work out the makeup of Mars, and whether or not it shares similarities with our own planet and moon. This will then allow us to have a greater understanding of how our Solar System was born.

Alongside this amazing InSight mission, the British Geological Survey (BGS) have created a set of teaching resources and classroom activities (Project MarsQuake) which, when they become available, will utilise and share the latest images and data coming back from InSight.

Seismology with LEGO® Bricks?

As a part of this set of projects and resources, Paul Denton (BGS), worked with us here at Mindsets, to create our very own easy to use and accessible seismology tools. You may have already spotted them on our website, but we want to formally introduce the ‘Build your own Seismometer Kit’  along with the SeismicPi HAT.

The Build your own Seismometer Kit provides you with all of the parts needed to create your own seismometer – out of official LEGO® bricks! 

To understand the data coming from the seismometer kit, you need a device to ‘read’ it (a digitiser). The SeismicPi HAT digitiser was developed as a part of the MarsQuake project, alongside a BGS-led summer school project at the University of Cambridge. This unique device can be used with up to four seismometers, and can be connected to a PC via USB. It can also function as a HAT for a Raspberry Pi.

The Football Connection

During Leicester City Football Club’s (LCFC) infamous 2015-16 Premiership-winning season, they were obviously doing very well. During the second half of that season (2016), students from Leicester University, in partnership with the BGS, started a very unusual outreach project. Hazel Community Primary School, conveniently located less than 500m away from the King Power Stadium (home of LCFC), became the project’s new home, along with a seismometer.

Every time a goal was scored by LCFC, the crowd went wild; more so towards the end of their amazing season. These celebrations caused vibrations within the ground and, you guessed it, could be picked up by the seismometer inside Hazel Community Primary School. The ‘FootyQuakes’ soon became ‘VardyQuakes’, after LCFC’s star striker, Jamie Vardy.

Hazel Road School's LEGO-based seismometer picking up goals.

For the 2016-17 season, the school’s seismometer was replaced with a simple LEGO®-based seismometer, based upon the idea of a ‘Build your own Seismometer Kit’. More recently, following on from the success of the VardyQuake Project, the National Youth Agency in Leicester commissioned us to produce a special version of the seismometer kit, which will be in Blue and White – after LCFC’s home colours.

More than 50 sets worth of Blue and White LEGO® bricks.

If you want to learn more about the MarsQuake project, then head on over to the BGS’s website. Or if you want to find out more about InSight, then take a look at NASA’s website.

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorise or endorse this site.
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