Tech high school students create 3-D tsunami models

September 23, 2011

By TOMOAKI ITO / Staff Writer

MIYAKO, Iwate Prefecture -- Residents along the Sanriku coast of the Tohoku region had long been preparing for tsunami--months and years ahead of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Yet despite their preparedness, many people in the region perished due to the unexpected overpowering force of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.

For seven years, Hiroshi Yamanome, a teacher in the mechanics department of Miyako Technical Senior High School in this northeastern city, has annually constructed working scale models of tsunami to give students a firsthand look at the science and physics behind the terrible tidal waves.

It takes a full year for Yamanome and his mechanics students to create a model at a scale of 1:2500. Plywood and paper clay are used to reproduce the bathymetry and ground topography near coastal communities.

Students use residential maps to create scale models of houses and infrastructure.

"It's better to create something useful if they are studying mechanics," Yamanome, 58, says. "I wish senior high schools in other prefectures would also take up the practice (of building tsunami models)."

Yamanome and his students have made eight models for different coastal communities. The movements of the models feel very real. When the bottom of a tank above the ocean side is opened, water gushes out and runs up to the town center.

The high school held a demonstration of one of their models at an elementary school in Miyako just eight days before the March 11 disaster. It's no doubt that many of the kids remembered the model demonstration while they ran to higher ground.

The six-month anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake was earlier this month. Some of the students in Yamanome's mechanics class had their homes swept away on March 11, but on a recent September visit to the class, the students were happy and chattering away.

"Let's make a mountain of rubble here," one student said.

"This building is no longer there, we should remove it," added another, as the students made accurate updates to their tsunami model.

By TOMOAKI ITO / Staff Writer
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Students show off their tsunami model at Miyako Technical Senior High School in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, on Sept. 12. (Tomoaki Ito)

Students show off their tsunami model at Miyako Technical Senior High School in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, on Sept. 12. (Tomoaki Ito)

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  • Students show off their tsunami model at Miyako Technical Senior High School in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, on Sept. 12. (Tomoaki Ito)

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