Bronxville High School students, who have been studying about Newton’s laws of motion in their physics classes, worked in groups to design slingshot cars that would minimize the forces felt by its passengers during a collision.
As part of the project in Ben Cornish’s and Kevin Geidel’s CORE Physics classes, the students had the freedom to get creative with their designs while adhering to the assignment’s guidelines. Some students used hot glue and Popsicle sticks to build their cars while others fabricated custom parts in CAD and printed them on 3D printers.
“The range of ideas and approaches is impressive,” Geidel said. “I hope students are learning to embrace the iterative nature of engineering, acknowledge the ability of physical and mathematical models to improve the quality of life for everyday people and that they should always measure twice and cut once.”
The students were challenged to build cars that can travel a minimum distance of three meters when unobstructed, then launched again and into a wall only one meter away. They also used accelerometers and position sensors to take data regarding the launch and collision accelerations, as well as impact velocity. In addition, they used their knowledge of kinematics and dynamic forces to evaluate the effectiveness of their safety features and modifications.
“They analyzed their data and determined the forces involved and compared the motion of their unmodified car with a rebuilt version, including one or more safety features that the students learned about during their research,” Geidel said.