Shake Challenge Symposium 2023: Engaging Rural Alaska's Future STEM Innovators
Gabriel Low

“Attention Chevak, this is an Earthquake Alert: Please take cover!”

This warning message resonated through the room as four Chevak high school students demonstrated their seismic alert system, the pinnacle of their Shake Challenge Symposium presentation.

The Shake Challenge Symposium, held March 4-5, 2023, was the major culminating event for participants in the T3 Shake Ambassador Club. Teams of students from participating schools around the state gathered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to present and demonstrate their seismic alert systems, programmed using live data from their school seismographs. The symposium was designed to provide Shake Ambassador students with a fun and engaging learning experience that emulated a professional conference-style event. Team awards included  "Most Creative," "Best Presentation," and "Best System Overall."

Twenty-three students from seven rural Alaska schools participated in the event (Figure 1), representing the diversity of rural communities across the state: Brevig Mission School, Chevak School, Bethel Regional High School, Wrangell High School, Mt. Edgecumbe High School (Sitka), Seward High School, and North Pole High School.

The agenda was filled with opportunities to learn from science professionals in person and explore university research facilities. On Saturday morning, students visited the International Arctic Research Center and the Geophysical Institute, with a primary focus on the Alaska Earthquake Center. There, students toured the lab and participated in presentations and demonstrations given by Earthquake Center staff representing the Field, Systems, Analyst, and Communications teams (Figure 2). A highlight was the field team's hands-on activities, which included leveling sensors, routing wires, and splicing ethernet cables. Students spent Saturday afternoon at the UAF T3 Makerspace, where they took full advantage of the STEM-oriented learning space to prepare their alarm systems and presentations for Sunday's Symposium.

Sunday's Symposium Day was filled with excitement. After an early breakfast, teams made their final preparations before the presentations commenced (Figures 3 & 4). Students heard words from special guests including Mike West, Alaska Earthquake Center Director; Adam Low, Upward Bound/T3 Alaska Director; and Richard Boaz, Cofounder of Raspberry Shake. Bax Bond, research engineer at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, offered a compelling keynote presentation on researching the unknown and learning to learn. Bond is Yup'ik from Tununak village and is a Mt. Edgecumbe High School alumnus.

Each team delivered a captivating presentation, including details about their communities, their school seismographs, seismic alert system designs, and live demonstrations (Figures 5 & 6). For some students, it was their first time giving a presentation. Highlights included the Brevig Mission team detecting wind storms with their seismic monitors, the Mt. Edgecumbe team monitoring a nearby construction project, the Bethel team learning about project management and teamwork, and the North Pole team utilizing artificial intelligence in their system design process. The format of the presentations emphasized each team's uniqueness and value, regardless of their system's technical complexity.

The awards ceremony began with all participants receiving two Teaching Through Technology (T3) Badges: Seismology Basics (Level 1) and Seismic Monitoring (Level 2), which serve as micro-certifications for demonstrating technological skills and competency.

Shake Challenge Symposium 2023 team awards were presented by Adam Low and Mike West.

  • Most Creative was awarded to the Seward team for their innovative "Snake Shake" Alarm (inspired by singing wall-mounted fish).
  • Best Presentation was awarded to the Wrangell team with their super-polished slides and excellent overall presentation.
  • Best System Overall was awarded to the Chevak team with their mobile app notifications, dual sensor alarm, and custom yuraq (Cup'ik song) warning message (Figure 7).

As the Shake Challenge Symposium 2023 came to a close, it was evident that the T3 Shake Ambassador Club had made a significant impact on the lives of the students involved. The weekend event not only provided a unique educational experience but also fostered a sense of community and accomplishment among the participants. The dedication and enthusiasm of the students were truly inspiring, leaving a lasting impact on the scientific community and those who attended. As the T3 Shake Ambassador Club continues forward into 2023 and beyond, we will continue to champion this innovative educational model, nurturing the curiosity and creativity of students across Alaska and fostering a brighter future for STEM and geosciences in rural Alaska.

This event was made possible through support and partnerships from the following organizations: Alaska Earthquake Center, Teaching Through Technology (T3) Alaska, UAF Upward Bound, Earthscope Consortium, and UAF Geophysical Detection of Nuclear Proliferation University Affiliated Research Center (GNDP UARC).


Bethel Regional High School (slides)
Jeremy Thatcher (10th), John Brink (10th), John Nicholas (12th), Zack Wassilie (12th), George Gregory (12th)

Brevig Mission School (slides)
Brady Henry (9th), Kenyon Southall (11th)

Chevak School (slides)
Merlin Matchian (9th), Macian Matchian (10th), Grace Ulroan (10th), Haven Ulroan (11th)

Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Sitka (slides)
Camron Isaak (10th), Timothy Garcia (11th), Peter Lowe (12th), Hannah McEwen (10th)

North Pole High School (slides)
Johnathan Free (9th), Layla Workman (10th)

Seward High School (slides)
Angel Wagner (10th), Oliver Trobaugh (10th)

Wrangell High School (slides)
Silje Morse (7th), Andrei Bardin-Siekawitch (8th), Ander Eden (10th), William Ashton (12th)

Group of students in front of seismograph screen displays.
Figure 1. Group photo of Symposium participants in the Alaska Earthquake Center lab.


Female staff member standing in front of multiple seismograph monitors, talking to a group of high school students.
Figure 2. Alex Farrell from the Earthquake Center Systems Team speaking to the group in the lab’s display room.


Male student sitting and female student standing looking at laptop screen.
Figure 3. Oliver and Angel of Seward make final updates to their code for the team's "Snake Shake" alarm on Sunday morning before presentations begin.


Male staff member looking at computer screen with three high school students.
Figure 4. Merlin, Macian, Grace, and Haven from the Chevak Team troubleshooting mobile app notifications with the Earthquake Center's Gabriel Low.


Two students at podium with presentation on wall screen to the right.
Figure 5. Brady and Kenyon of Brevig Mission share about their school seismograph.


Four high school students in midjump.
Figure 6. Ander, Will, Andrei, and Silja of Wrangell jump next to the Raspberry Shake seismographs to trigger their alert system.


Three adults and four high school students pose in front of podium. One student holds a trophy.
Figure 7. The Chevak team poses for a photo with Mike West and Adam Low after receiving their "Best System Overall" award. From left to right, Mike West (AEC Director), Kurt Morales (Chevak School teacher), Haven Ulroan, Merlin Matchian, Macian Matchian, Grace Ulroan, and Adam Low (Upward Bound/T3 Director).