Asee peer logo

Crash Safety in the Introductory Physics Lab

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Physics or Engineering Physics I

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.389.1 - 22.389.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Daniel Ludwigsen Kettering University

visit author page

Dr. Daniel Ludwigsen pursued research in Musical Acoustics while completing the Ph.D. in Physics from Brigham Young University. After joining Kettering University in support of the acoustics specialty within Applied Physics, Dr. Ludwigsen has broadened his professional interests to include physics education research and instructional design. In addition to an overhaul of the introductory physics laboratories, partially supported by NSF CCLI funding, Dr. Ludwigsen has written two courses at the sophomore/junior level, and coauthored a senior level laboratory in acoustics. He is also interested in developing materials to help K-12 teachers with units on sound and waves, and to incorporate crash safety topics into their physics curriculum.

visit author page


Janet Brelin-Fornari Kettering University

visit author page

Dr. Brelin-Fornari is a professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Kettering University Crash Safety Center. She began work as an engineer with General Motors and has spent the last twelve years in academia. Dr. Brelin-Fornari teaches in the areas of dynamics, systems, and controls. She also conducts research in pediatric mobility safety. And, she brings both the classroom and the research together for students at the undergraduate and K-12 levels.

visit author page


Joseph Neal Kettering University

visit author page

Graduate Research Assistant, Kettering University.
Project Description: Coordination of research efforts between physics and the crash safety center to fulfill the obligations of the funding agency in the redesign of the PHYS-115 lab curriculum. Create, edit, and integrate data and multimedia for use in lab curriculum. Assess curricular materials and student feedback for improvement in lab activities. Perform research in Kettering University's Crash Safety Center

visit author page

Download Paper |


Crash Safety in the Introductory Physics LabAbstractIn the field of vehicle occupant protection and crash safety, the Deceleration Sled offersresearchers a controlled, repeatable, and relatively cost-effective means to test interior parts suchas safety restraint systems. The sled can accelerate a 2000 lb payload to achieve a speed of 40 mph before a hydraulically controlled deceleration models the deformation of the vehiclestructure during a crash. Understanding the dynamics of the sled and interpreting test resultsincorporates many of the core concepts of a first course in introductory physics. This applicationof physics principles is the inspiration for development and dissemination of curricular materials,appropriate for an introductory physics laboratory. Commonly available apparatus is put to thetask: a low-friction cart on a track, with position and force sensors, accelerometers, and videoanalysis (using a low-cost webcam).This project will integrate the context of crash safety with current pedagogical techniquesdeveloped and proven in physics education research. The curricular materials have two goals: tohelp college and university students see the relevance of fundamental physics in engineering andpractical applications, and to help these students learn concepts in physics more effectively anddeeply. Activities address topics of motion, forces, energy, and momentum with pedagogy basedin a guided inquiry/discovery model for lab instruction. Common misconceptions established inphysics education research will be addressed intentionally, as students are encouraged to predict,test, and reflect on results. A library of video clips will be assembled and disseminated throughthe project web site, as well as editable curriculum materials.Assessment of the deployed activities in focus-group-type interviews and anonymous surveyshas led to better understanding of students’ needs in an inquiry-based laboratory. Also, widelyused instruments (the Force Concept Inventory and the Maryland Physics Expectation Survey)are included in the assessment phase of this project.

Ludwigsen, D., & Brelin-Fornari, J., & Neal, J. (2011, June), Crash Safety in the Introductory Physics Lab Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17670

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015