In 2013, Project Lead The Way (PLTW) partnered with INDYCAR® to create a unique outreach initiative for eighth-grade students called The Future of Fast. Activity pods were set up at various INDYCAR race venues throughout the country to provide hands-on STEM activities centered on the INDYCAR car, tires, fuel, engine, and safety. The goals of these INDYCAR-themed activities were to show students how engineers and scientists play key roles in the sport, to highlight connections between what students study in the classroom and real-world situations, and to ignite student interest in math and science.
In one of the race-day activities, students were challenged to design, build, and test a barrier crash zone using simple construction supplies. Prior to starting the challenge, students learned about the incredible forces experienced by drivers during a crash, heard about how INDYCAR engineers developed the SAFER Barrier (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) to provide crash zone protection, and examined an actual SAFER Barrier.
Students were divided into teams of four and were provided with materials, dimensions, and constraints for the challenge. Data from a baseline test using a piece of wood as a barrier were also provided to the students so that they could compare their results to acceleration values of a worse-case scenario. Each team was then given 15 minutes to construct a prototype, measure performance, discuss modifications, modify the design, and repeat the iterative design and test process. To test their barriers, students used a Vernier LabQuest 2 and a 25-g Accelerometer attached to a small model car to collect data while the car rolled down a track and into the barrier they designed. Following this fun and competitive challenge, the teams discussed their results, designs, and what makes an effective SAFER Barrier.
Vernier has developed a strong partnership with Project Lead The Way. We value their mission to prepare students for the global economy. By providing a comprehensive curriculum package based on national standards, focusing on teacher training, and integrating Vernier technology and sensors, the PLTW biomedical programs, engineering programs, and outreach initiatives are extremely valuable for schools that are integrating hands-on, project-based STEM curriculum.