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9-12 | Science & Tech | Hands on activities
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My Classroom Innovation
When teaching Newton's three laws to my senior students I like to relate the laws to car crashes. Safe driving illustrates physics well and connects to student's everyday lives. One innovative way to do this is to launch an airbag inside the classroom. Airbags are easily obtained and pack a very powerful lesson on impulse and momentum that students rarely forget. Airbags have a long history that combines the science of passive restraint systems with governmental regulation. Few people realize that cars today can protect an occupant from a head-on collision at thirty miles per hour without seatbelts. Passive restraint systems are mandated to do this, and the physics behind the scenes is impressive to kids. My students study how airbags function, build restraint systems to protect an egg from a crash into a wall, and “save” a passenger by designing their own computer simulation of a car crash using Interactive Physics.
How Students were Engaged
Kids have a wonderful time with this lesson. They enjoy the twist on the traditional egg drop lesson, as it has more meaning if you think of yourself as an egg traveling at 30 mph into a wall. Designing a car using computer software provides a variety of techniques to protect the passenger, from placing small lightweight objects in front of the passenger to help reduce the impact force to a more ordinary approach of providing seatbelts for the passenger. The actual deployment of an airbag brings a calming laughter to a rather serious business; that of saving peoples lives.
PBS Program/Content Used