I feel the earth move under my feet (in Michigan)

The University of Michigan is home to the largest stadium in the USA (the second-largest in the world!). So what better place to test for spectator-induced seismic activity than The Big House?

The Big House stadium in Michigan

The Michigan Shake

University of Michigan geology professor Ben van der Pluijm decided to make waves by measuring the seismic activity produced during games at the university’s 107601 person-capacity stadium. Because earthquakes are (thankfully) very rare in the Midwest, and therefore very rarely experienced by van der Pluijm’s introductory geology class, he hoped this approach would make the movement of the Earth more accessible to his students.

“The bottom line was, I wanted something to show people that the Earth just shakes from all kinds of interactions,” explained van der Pluijm in his interview with The Michigan Daily. “All kinds of activity makes the Earth shake.”

The Big House stadium in Michigan

To measure the seismic activity, van der Pluijm used a Raspberry Pi, placing it on a flat concrete surface within the stadium.

Van der Pluijm installed a small machine called a Raspberry Pi computer in the stadium. He said his only requirements were that it needed to be able to plug into the internet and set up on a concrete floor. “Then it sits there and does its thing,” he said. “In fact, it probably does its thing right now.”

He then sent freshman student Sahil Tolia to some games to record the moments of spectator movement and celebration, so that these could be compared with the seismic activity that the Pi registers.

We’re not sure whether Professor van der Pluijm plans on releasing his findings to the outside world, or whether he’ll keep them a close secret with his introductory students, but we hope for the former!

Build your own Raspberry Pi seismic activity reader

We’re not sure what other technology van der Pluijm uses in conjunction with the Raspberry Pi, but it’s fairly easy to create your own seismic activity reader using our board. You can purchase the Raspberry Shake, an add-on board for the Pi that has vertical and horizontal geophones, MEMs accelerometers, and omnidirectional differential pressure transducers. Or you can fashion something at home, for example by taking hints from this project by Carlo Cristini, which uses household items to register movement.


James Carroll avatar

I have to wonder about it being positioned on concrete of the stadium. Concrete transfers vibration better than earth. Might have been interesting to place it on the field in an out of the way place. November 24th is the Ohio State game. I imagine that should bring about the largest readings unless the Buckeyes shut down the Wolverines early. Nothing like getting stomped to quiet the crowd. Go Blue!

James Carroll avatar

Never mind! That games is at Ohio State. Duh!

Lawrence Beasley avatar


Jesse Cull avatar

Go Wolverines!

Roger Coleman avatar

There’s a page about this project on the Raspberry Shake site you link to:


This includes some details about the results and answers the question about the technology doing the sensing (it’s a raspberry shake). Plus a super photo of U-M geologist Ben van der Pluijm himself.

Thx Rog

Alex Rode avatar

Very cool idea. By the way, the American Midwest has one of the largest geological fault lines in the country. Yes, the west coast get Earthquakes, yet being from Michigan, I have experienced tremors on and off, but nothing like out west. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Illinois_earthquake

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