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Georgia Perimeter students study quake reading

This seismogram shows the Virginia earthquake from Tuesday near the bottom left portion of this graph. The seismogram, which picks up readings from the seismometer at Georgia Perimeter College’s Newton Campus, also registered the earthquake in Colorado the day before and other movements that not necessarily were felt in Covington.

This seismogram shows the Virginia earthquake from Tuesday near the bottom left portion of this graph. The seismogram, which picks up readings from the seismometer at Georgia Perimeter College’s Newton Campus, also registered the earthquake in Colorado the day before and other movements that not necessarily were felt in Covington.

COVINGTON -- Although Tuesday's earthquake in Virginia occurred more than 500 miles and nine hours away, some residents in Georgia said they felt the effects here.

And now Georgia Perimeter College has proof that they were right.

GPC geology instructor Polly Bouker said she recently had shown her students a seismometer, which detects vibrations of the earth, and how they could view readings online at anytime. Later, she heard about the earthquake, so she checked the readings online and saw that it registered.

"They have had a lot to talk about (this week). It adds a little reality to the course. As for the recent earthquake, it's an interesting way to start the semester off."

"The lines clearly showed something dramatic had happened somewhere in the world," she said. "We had no idea it would be so close to home."

The Newton Campus' seismometer detected Tuesday's 5.8-magnitude quake, which had an epicenter in the town of Mineral in central Virginia.

"People (in Newton County) did say they felt it -- one of my colleagues down the hall felt it, and several of my students said they had felt it, which was pretty neat," Bouker said. "I did not feel it, so I was very disappointed."

She said the instrument is very sensitive, and she has the sensitivity turned up on it, so the students have seen readings from a Colorado quake the day before and other quakes from around the world, although they don't register in Georgia. Sometimes the machine also picks up interference from Interstate 20, she said.

Still, the educational value of having the machine is beneficial to students.

"We bought it because we wanted to have something different than other campuses," she said. "We wanted to get the students interested in geology and physics."

She and GPC physics instructor Joe Seymour often use it or reference it in class.

"It's nice for physics students to see the application of their physical concepts, and nice for geology students to see the measurement of an actual event," Bouker said. "Seismology pulls our two disciplines together to offer students integrated learning."

Now their students have a more real-life experience to reference in class, instead of simply seeing the readings from all around the world, she said.

"They have had a lot to talk about (this week)," she said. "It adds a little reality to the course. As for the recent earthquake, it's an interesting way to start the semester off."