Alumni invent earthquake software

Katherine Fitzgerald, a Chico State civil engineering graduate, is working with other alumni to create a software program that detects earthquakes and building damages caused by earthquakes. Photo courtesy Katherine Fitzgerald

Chico State alumni are creating new software that can predict the building damage an earthquake can cause.

Katherine Fitzgerald, Dustin Cook and Travis Chrupalo were hired by Curt Haselton, a Chico State civil engineering professor, to complete the the Seismic Performance Prediction Program software.

The project for this software began in February and is scheduled to be released the week of Oct. 20th. The team has been collaborating with Stanford University faculty member Jack Baker since June of this year.

“There is a new move in structural engineering to move towards performance based design and that’s designing a building for how you want them to behave after an earthquake and this software helps with that,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald is a Chico State civil engineering graduate, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in structural engineering at Stanford University.

The software helps engineers who design buildings to determine losses they can expect given a specific type of earthquake, she said.

After information about the building is recorded into the software, the program will tell what sort of damage can be expected, including predicted loss of money, expected fatalities and injuries and downtime, Fitzgerald said. The software also analyzes the likelihood of earthquakes in the area.

There are existing programs that predict earthquake damage but they aren’t as as efficient, she said.

“Some programs are very detailed about the building but they take an insane long amount of time and it’s very time consuming, and then there are others that take a much more relaxed approach but they’re less detailed,” Fitzgerald said.

The goal is to try to bridge the gap between these problems, she said.

A grant was provided by the National Science Foundation to help start the project and the research was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The team is planning to sell the software program but information about who it will be sold to and how much it will cost has not been released yet.

Daisy Dardon can be reached at [email protected] or @daisydardon on Twitter.