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Crash Cushion Investigation: Newton's Third Law

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Submitted by PocketLab on Thu, 06/01/2017 - 18:01

Investigation Purpose 

Using office supplies, students will design, build, test, and iterate on a crash cushion that will reduce the force experienced by a cart as it crashes into a wall. The investigation is aligned to NGSS MS-PS2-1, Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects. Teachers can scale up the investigation for high school students to address NGSS HS-PS2-3 or extend the investigation to also cover NGSS engineering design standards MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, and MS-ETS1-3.

Students, you will build at least three models of crash cushions. You will test each model with your lab group by collecting acceleration data with PocketLab. Using the data collected from your crash cushion models, you will then draw a conclusion about how to design optimal crash cushions to prevent traffic fatalities.

Crash Cushion Investigation Background

Nearly 1.3 million people die from car accidents worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. In order to reduce traffic fatalities high-speed roadways must be made safer. Building crash cushions along highways that reduce the impact force experienced by the passengers of the car in a crash can save lives. But how should these cushions be built?

You are part of a team of engineers that works for the Department of Highway Safety. Your team’s job is to find ways to make roadways safer for drivers and passengers. An interchange was recently built that connects the two largest highways in your state. At one of the interchange off-ramps, there is a dangerous wall between the highway and the off-ramp. If a driver accidentally crashes into the wall they would be seriously hurt or even killed. Your team must design a cushion that will be placed in front of the wall to reduce the force felt by the passengers if a car were to crash into the wall. Your design will help save lives.

Download PDF for complete lab activity.

Cart with PocketLab and Crash Cushion