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Otautahi – Southern California high school junior has built a low-cost seismometer device that delivers earthquake early warnings for homes and businesses.

Costing less than $US100 for her to make today, the seismometer could someday be a regular household safety device akin to a smart smoke detector, says young inventor Vivien He.

About the size of a Rubik’s cube and encased in clear acrylic, the seismometer has a sleek, consumer-ready look.

The device’s geophone detects incoming ground motion, while onboard hardware and software translate the geophone’s electrical signals into a digital waveform, Science Daily says.

He presented her research on the device at the Seismological Society of America (SSA)’s 2021 annual meeting. She won a SSA student travel grant, the only high school student among all recipients, to attend the conference free of charge.

The device has detected all earthquakes over magnitude 3.0 around Los Angeles since September last year.

When earthquakes are stronger than the alert threshold set by the user, the device can sound the onboard alarm for on-site warning, send a text message to local subscribers of the regional warning service, and can be controlled from a smartphone.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula High School student, 17, researched, designed, built and tested the entire device during covid restrictions.

The seismometer device fills a gap in current earthquake early warning systems, He says by providing a consumer-friendly, low-cost, built-for-purpose alternative to more expensive, scientific-grade systems.

Her device offers a way for people in earthquake zones to gain a few to tens of seconds of warning to take action and automatically shut down utilities and machinery at work.

He has set up a non-profit organisation, Melior Earth, to help her get the device to those who need an inexpensive earthquake early warning system.

The seismometer has since successfully detected several recent earthquakes in southern California.

He is working on getting a utility patent for the device. She plans to use her non-profit to drive consumer adoption for the device, especially making earthquake early warning accessible for the lower-income countries, regions and population.