December 12, 2017 by WittyLibrarian
Program Title: Crash Test Dummies
Target Age Range: Teens, Grades 7 & Up
Program Length: 90 minutes
Brief Description: Make a contraption that can save your crash test dummy from certain doom!
Optional: Tarp and Kiddie Pool
A variety of materials with which to build with! This is a program that we like to refer to as a “clean out the supply closet program!” Anything and everything can work for this: we used cups, straws, cotton balls, popsicle sticks, bubble wrap, sponges, masking tape, and pipe cleaners.
Fill water balloons with water. Have at least 3 balloons per group of teens.
If doing the program indoors, lay out a tarp and a kiddie pool in which to test the contraptions.
- Introduction to the topic of crash test dummies and the purpose they serve.This is an interesting article explaining the concept and technology used in Crash Test Dummies: Popular Science’s How It Works: A Smarter Crash-Test Dummy
- Watch relevant videos pertaining to both crash test dummies, and helmet safety (as the water balloon used in our experiment most closely resembles a brain). See Website Resources for suggested videos.
- Make contraptions to save the Crash Test Dummies; i.e. water balloons, as outlined in the Pop Goes the Brain experiment in Crazy for science with Carmelo the Science Fellow by Carmelo Piazza and James Buckley, Jr. .
Crash Test Dummies
This program was based off of the Pop Goes the Brain experiment in Crazy for science with Carmelo the Science Fellow by Carmelo Piazza and James Buckley, Jr. . Teens build devices that could sustain their water balloons against excessive force. That excessive force came from slamming them down onto the ground, or against a wall. The goal was to see if the balloon could survive.
What we would do differently:
This program was super fun, and could have gone on for much longer than the 90 minutes we allotted for it. Teens had a lot of fun making devices to protect their water balloons, and eagerly watched each attempt to destroy the device and water balloons, counting down until the crash. The only hiccup we had in the program was that this was originally slated to be held outside where the contraptions could be thrown against a wall, but due to rain, we held the event indoors and used a tarp and kiddie pool to protect the room from the spray of water that resulted from defective devices. Slamming the devices into the kiddie pool required a lot of force, more so than throwing it against a wall would require.
Adaption for older/younger audience:
Overall, this is a fun program, that is a variation of the classic Egg Drop program, so its suitable for almost all ages. From younger kids, in grades 1-3, we recommend not focusing on the Crash Test Dummy aspect of the program, and not showing any videos. Instead, focus only on the engineering aspect of protecting the water balloon. Tweens in grades 4-6 might find the Crash Test Dummies angle amusing, but show care in which, if any, of the videos are shown.