Thursday, July 7, 2016

Crash Cushions - AAPT Summer Meeting 2016


Designing and Testing Crash Barriers, an Engaging NGSS Activity [AJ03]

Mon 07/18, 9:30AM - 9:40AM

Dan Burns, Los Gatos High School
Bree  Barnett Dreyfuss, Amador Valley High School

The design of highway crash barriers is rich in physics and the potential to engage students. Crash barriers are ubiquitous in urban, suburban, and rural areas. There are many different types in use. Designing them is an effective way to address NGSS standard HS-PS2-3 that asks students to apply scientific and engineering ideas to design a device that minimizes the force on an object during a collision. Crash barriers involve many physics topics like Newton’s laws, impulse and momentum, energy, and kinematics. The lab requires only one set of equipment but no eggs! Students design and build crash barriers from inexpensive materials and test them using a cart, track, and accelerometer. They can use their test results to improve their design. We will show several variations of crash barrier test setups using a variety of vendor equipment. We will show student examples and test data. 

 Powerpoint from our presentation available here.


Note:  We may refer to these student-made devices as "Crash Cushions" or "Crash Barriers."

Below are resources available from our first attempts at this project, materials we like to share, etc. 

  • Video summarizing Bree's 2016 classes showing their crash test and resulting graphs:
  • Video of professional crash cushion tests Dan likes to share:

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