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Using Automotive Safety in a Service-learning Project for Undergraduate Dynamics

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovations in Solid Mechanics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1419.1 - 25.1419.13



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Paper Authors


Charles Birdsong California Polytechnic State University

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Charles Birdsong has expertise in automotive safety, vibrations, controls, signal processing, instrumentation, real-time control, active noise control, and dynamic system modeling. He received his B.S.M.E. at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and his M.S. and Ph.D. at Michigan State University, where he worked on active noise control applications for the automotive industry. He has worked in the vibration test and measurement industry helping to drive new technologies to market and working with industry to meet their emerging needs. He is currently an Associate Professor at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo in the Department of Mechanical Engineering teaching dynamics, vibrations and controls. He is involved in several undergraduate and master’s level multidisciplinary projects and interested in engineering education research.

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ASEE Annual Conference 2012Charles BirdsongMechanical Engineering Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CADivision: MechanicsUSING AUTOMOTIVE SAFETY IN A SERVICE-LEARNING PROJECT FOR UNDERGRADUATE DYNAMICSAbstractAutomotive safety was used as a service-learning, overarching term-long theme in undergraduateDynamics course. The service-learning objective of the project was to prepare a small scale lab relatedto automotive crash testing for a high-school student science summer camp program at Cal Poly. Thecollege students in the dynamics class were tasked with performing analysis to help design and test theapparatus and also the write procedures that would be given to the high-school students. In addition totraditional textbook homework problems and quizzes, the dynamics students were tasked with workingin small groups to analyze car crash mechanics as they related to the topics throughout the course.They were given weekly project assignments that involved addressing open-ended questions,conducting research outside of the scope of the course, performing analysis, working in groups, andsummarizing the results in a short memo. At the end of the course a physical experiment apparatus wasassembled that resembled the student’s design. It consisted of a small aluminum sled on wheels with adoll used as a crash test dummy. An accelerometer and a high speed digital camera were used tomeasure the vehicle’s motion during a crash. Each student team was asked to design a bumper fromcommon household materials to minimize the damage to the passenger and predict the maximumacceleration during the crash. Students were given the acceleration versus time graph and video of theircrash and asked to compute actual results from the experiment such as impact speed, peakacceleration, impulse, maximum angular acceleration of the dummy’s head and neck, etc. A final reportfor each team included written procedures, analysis and also recommendations about what aspects ofthe project would be suitable for high-school students. Also students prepared a poster for a postersession on the last day of class where they compared their results with all of the other teams and wereasked to explain the properties of a good bumper. The project was repeated in winter (105 students)and spring (100 students) quarters in 2011 and the summer camp for high-school students (60 students)was conducted in summer 2011. Assessment of the project included a survey that asked the dynamicsstudents to compare the effectiveness of the project in helping them to learn the course materialcompared with the other course components such as attending lecture, homework, reading the text,etc. Another survey question asked about their motivation for taking the course. The surveys weregiven at the start, middle and end of the course to identify trends and compared with results from acontrol group.

Birdsong, C. (2012, June), Using Automotive Safety in a Service-learning Project for Undergraduate Dynamics Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22176

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