Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos holding his model of the 2010 El Mayor-Cucapah (Baja California, Mexico) earthquake. Note: In the back of the photo you can see a video screen playing the actual numerical simulation of the same earthquake."
June 11, 2018

Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos had a wild idea in July 2017, but he didn’t know whether UCR had the resources he needed to bring his vision to life – until he found out about the Creat’R Lab.

It had opened its doors in Orbach Library only three months prior.

As a Researcher in UC Riverside’s Department of Earth Sciences, Kyriakopoulos typically works with numerical models on computer screens, but he wanted to make a 3D-model of California’s major earthquake faults to use as an outreach tool.

He believed that a tactile model would make his work more engaging, interactive and accessible to different types of audiences – from academic peers to elementary schoolchildren, government officials, and the visually impaired.

“It can be challenging for geophysicists to talk to everyday people about what we do,” Kyriakopoulos explained. “In order to do that better, it helps to be able to put our computer-based work into physical form.”

When he brought his idea to Michele Potter, Creat’R Lab’s 3D printing specialist, she was enthusiastic. “It involved a number of techniques and considerations we had never delved into before, and the educational application was so obvious,” she said. “This technology can teach people new concepts, partially by inspiring them to ask questions that they had never thought of before.”

“Michele was so helpful,” Kyriakopoulos said. “The Creat’R Lab is a great example of a well-organized space with an open doors policy, so easy to approach and so supportive.”

Kyriakopoulos and his 3D-printed model have had quite a busy year. “In nine months, we have brought the model to the general public, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting – the biggest geophysical conference in the world, the [Riverside] Long Night of Arts and Innovation, several outreach activities inside and outside UCR, and even a house committee meeting with legislators!” he said.

The model was featured at a congressional meeting on May 31, 2018 in Huntington Beach, where the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (including Congress members Mark Takano, Dana Rohrabacher and Jerry McNerney) met to decide the fate of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP).

“This may have helped significantly in giving arguments to Congress for increasing research funding for earth sciences,” said Michalis Faloutsos, UCR Director of Entrepreneurship.

“Christos’ model seems to have done for the Representatives what it has done for countless UCR and visiting students: showed them in a tangible way why we need to talk about earthquakes,” Potter added.

According to Kyriakopoulos, NEHRP is something that UCR should care about because data from the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that the Southern California region has a 75% chance of seeing one or more major seismic events (an earthquake measuring 7.0 or higher) in the next 30 years – and Riverside is close to many of the most active and dangerous faults.

Kyriakopoulos’ office is now filled to the brim with 3D-printed models. His collection of fault displays has expanded to include a model of the subduction zone fault responsible for the M9 2011 Tohoku-oki event (Japan), the M7.2 2010 El Mayor-Cucapah (Baja California, Mexico) earthquake, the M7.8 2015 Gorkha (Nepal) earthquake. He also has small models of the Grand Canyon and Mount St. Helens, among others, which he plans to use for outreach.

“What Christos is doing is truly exciting, and the Creat’R lab has been crucial,” said David D. Oglesby, Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences and professor of geophysics.

Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos holding his model of the 2010 El Mayor-Cucapah (Baja California, Mexico) earthquake. Note: In the back of the photo you can see a video screen playing the actual numerical simulation of the same earthquake."

Christodoulos Kyriakopoulos would like to recognize Kaitlin Chail (Director of Federal Relations at UCR) for organizing the participation at the Congressional Meeting in Huntington Beach.