SCIENCE OF THE SUMMER OLYMPICS: Designing Safety Helmets - A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12) Print

Objective:

Framework for K–12 Science Education: PS1.A Structure and Properties of Matter, PS2.B: Types of Interactions, PS3.C: Relationship Between Energy and Forces, LS1.A: Structure and Function, ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems, ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology


Introduction Notes:

Science of the Summer Olympics

Designing Safety Helmets

A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning Information

 

About the Video

Dr. Nikhil Gupta, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, explains the challenges associated with designing safety helmets used by different types of athletes.  In his lab, he and other members of his team use specialized equipment, including cameras and microscopes, to test and analyze how the various materials used in helmets withstand impact.  Dr. Gupta also discusses the importance of the comfort and fit of a helmet, as well as how this critical piece of safety equipment actually holds up under real-world conditions.

 

0:00     0:12     Series opening

0:13     0:43     Introduction of the importance of safety helmets in sports

0:44     1:14     Nikhil Gupta and the parameters considered in safety helmet design

1:15     1:24     Description of a typical safety helmet

1:25     1:37     Equestrian Beezie Madden and safety needs of her sport

1:38     2:02     Gupta showing an equestrian’s helmet and the purpose of each layer

2:03     2:53     Drop-impact testing and analysis of material used in a helmet’s outer shell

2:54     3:05     Cyclist Sarah Hammer and safety needs of her sport

3:06     3:22     Gupta showing a cyclist’s helmet and the purpose of each layer

3:23     4:09     Compression testing and analysis of material used in a helmet’s middle layer

4:10     4:24     Explanation of how helmets are designed to withstand one or multiple impacts

4:25     4:30     Gupta showing a boxer’s helmet and the purpose of the dense foam layer

4:31     4:49     Boxer Queen Underwood and safety needs of her sport

4:50     5:10     Gupta discussing the importance of field testing of helmets

5:11     5:23     Summary

5:24     5:35     Closing credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Connect to Science

Framework for K–12 Science Education  PS1.A Structure and Properties of Matter

                                                                    PS2.B: Types of Interactions

                                                                    PS3.C: Relationship Between Energy and Forces

                                                                    LS1.A: Structure and Function

 

(page 1)

 

Related Science Concepts

         Relationship of force and mass

         Impact forces

         Physical properties

         Energy transfer

         Skeletal system

         Interaction of body systems

 

Connect to Engineering

Framework for K–12 Science Education

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology

 

Engineering in Action

One goal of engineering is to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints—in this case, the safety of the user without compromising his or her performance.  Engineers often describe the factors that impact design using flowchart graphics that resemble a concept map.  Some of the factors are related to or dependent on one another (shown with connecting lines), while others might be freestanding, but no less important. Students will likely state that protecting the wearer’s head should be the utmost concern in the design of any type of helmet.  Other constraints might include the nature of the sport; the speed of the athlete when involved in the sport; the typical motions and potential dangers of the sport; the surface on which the sport typically takes place; the size and age range of the participants; and accommodations for eyeglasses or other aids, among others.  Identifying the range of constraints is part of the engineering knowledge-generating activity design practice.

 

Take Action with Students Duplicate engineering brainstorming methods by eliciting from students factors associated with developing safety helmets and constraints that might impact the solution.  Display the factors and constraints in individual circles.  Then have students suggest which are dependent on one another, or have to be considered in tandem as a solution is developed.

 

Inquiry Outline for Teachers

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 7.

 

Explore Understanding

In preparation, ask students to bring in helmets from sports, or other activities in which they participate, as prompts for discussion.  In class, elicit from students how the body systems are involved in sports and all other activities.  Point the discussion in a direction that allows students to conclude that the brain is one of the most important organs of the body, and how important it is for the brain to be protected from injuries.

(page 2)

 

 

Ask a few students, using their helmets as examples, to share experiences about activities or sports in which they participate, and explain how the helmet is involved.  Then use prompts such as the following to engage all of your students in a discussion about the function of safety helmets and protective headgear:

         A football player’s helmet protects a player from….

         A skateboarder’s or mountain biker’s helmet protects the wearer from….

         A wrestler’s headgear protects the athlete from….

         Not wearing a safety helmet could result in….

         A damaged or ill-fitting safety helmet is not useful because….

         One helmet contrasts with another in the following ways….

 

Show the video Science of the Summer Olympics (SOTSO): Designing Safety Helmets.

 

Have students discuss what they saw.  Use the following prompts to elicit from students the general purpose of any safety helmet, and why the materials from which they are made may vary.  Then extend students’ thinking to other protective devices used in sports and related activities.

         When I watched the video I thought about….

         The expert in the video claimed that _____ because….

         Most safety helmets have _____ layers because….

         Dr. Gupta and his team test helmet materials by….

         Some athletes wear mouth guards because….

         Football players wear various types of pads to….

         Skateboarders wear _____ to protect their….

         Shin guards protect a soccer player by….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: The video makes me think about these questions….  Have small groups list questions they have about how the materials of a safety helmet are selected and tested.  Groups should choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable.  Some examples are:

         How do different materials react to the same impact force?

         How do different amounts of force affect the same material?

         How does the distance an object falls affect its impact?

         How does the thickness of a material affect the way it reacts to a force?

         How does a material’s resilience affect the way it reacts to a force?

         How does the number of impacts affect the effectiveness of a helmet?

 

Design Investigations

Choose one of these two options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level.

 

Open Choice Approach (Copy Master page 7)

Small groups might join together to agree on one question for which they will explore the answer, or each small group might explore something different.  Students should brainstorm to

 

                                                                                                 (page 3)

 

come up with a procedure they would carry out to answer their question.  As they develop their

procedures, work with them so that they implement safe procedures that control variables, and use appropriate instruments to make accurate measurements. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         The variable we will test is….

         The variables we will control are….

         The steps we will follow are….

         The data we will collect include….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

         We will use _____ to make measurements of….

 

Focused Approach (Copy Master pages 8–9)

The following exemplifies how students might investigate the question of determining how different materials react to the same impact force.

1.      Ask students questions such as the following to spark their thinking:

         What were the safety helmets in the video?

         Of what kind of materials were the safety helmets mainly constructed?

         How does a boxer’s helmet differ from a bicyclist’s?

2.      Students might choose to explore how well different kinds of foam react to the same force. Give them free rein in determining which kinds of materials they will use, and how they will exert and measure the force. Examining a range of materials might help students refine their question or lead to new questions that they should record for later exploration.

3.      Ensure that students brainstorm variables and determine which can be controlled and which cannot.  As needed, help them focus on their chosen variable in each trial.  Use prompts such as the following:

         The variable we are testing is….

         The variables we are controlling, or keeping the same, are….

4.      Students should determine a way to exert the same amount of force on each of the test materials they choose.  For example, they might use a rigid plastic, rough polystyrene; smooth polystyrene; and dense, flexible craft or “cheesecake” foam; they might drop a 100-gram mass from a height of 2 meters onto the same thickness of each test material, and measure the depth, in millimeters, of the indentation—if any—that was created in each material.  Use prompts with students such as the following:

         We will create the same amount of force on each material by….

         We will measure how the force affected the material by….

         To make sure that we are generating valid data, we will repeat each test….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

5.      Students could also test how each material reacts to compressional force by squeezing the same thickness of each material between their forefingers and thumbs with as much force as possible, and observing and measuring the compressed thicknesses of each material.  For a more quantitative data set, students might place an object in the center of the foam samples, and use varying numbers of their individual textbooks to create the force.

6.      Students might extend their investigation by exploring how the surface area of an object influences the way the force is distributed.  For example, students might use wood blocks of

(page 4)

 

 

various length and width but the same height, exert force on them, and observe the differences in the impressions on the foam.  Parlay their results into a discussion on why, for example, a baseball helmet needs to be harder than a bike helmet.  Guide students to understand that a baseball is a small amount of force, but concentrated into a small surface area; whereas when hitting the road surface, a cyclist is experiencing a larger force spread out over a larger area.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, remind them to record their observations and measurements.  As needed, suggest ways they might organize their data using appropriate graphic organizers.  Students should analyze their group’s data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence shown by the data.  Encourage students with this prompt:  As evidenced by… we claim… because….

 

An example regarding the impact of a force on different kinds of foam might be:

As evidenced bydropping the same mass from the same distance onto four different types of materials, we claim that the craft foam has the highest compressibility because the mass made the deepest dent in this type of foam.

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their ideas with those of others—such as  classmates who investigated the same or similar question, material they found on the Internet, an expert they chose to interview, or their textbooks.  Remind students to credit original sources in their comparisons.  Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as the following:

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that we found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

My ideas are similar to those stated by Dr. Gupta on the video.  We found that some materials will compress when forces are applied to them, while other materials shatter or break when the same forces are applied.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before.  Have students respond to one of the prompts in writing and then ask volunteers to share with the class or have partners exchange responses and ask questions of each other.  Encourage reflection using prompts such as the following:

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 10.

(page 5)

 

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Bellringer:  Play the video as students get settled for class, perhaps twice.  Write this prompt on the board for students to consider as they watch:  List two ways that each helmet protects the athlete and one way the helmets enhance performance.

 

Visualize a Concept:  Use the segments of this video that show the helmets worn by equestrian Beezie Madden and cyclist Sarah Hammer to discuss how their helmets are similar yet different. Use these prompts to guide the discussion:

         How are the helmets worn by Beezie and Sarah similar?

         How are the helmets worn by these two athletes different?

         How do the surfaces on which these athletes compete influence the types of helmet they wear?

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these E’s:

Explore:  Use the focused inquiry idea to support your lessons on force and mass, and physical properties of matter.

Elaborate:  Use the video to extend students’ understanding of the need for safety helmets and other safety equipment, in both organized sports as well as similar recreational activities. Suggest students research the different types of helmets and other safety equipment used in at least five different sports or sporting activities.  Have students use their findings to create a visual, explaining the purpose of each type of equipment.

 

Connect to … Health

Encourage students to research the kinds of head or other injuries, such as concussions, commonly sustained in certain sports.  Have them create posters that show the affected area(s), describe symptoms of the injury, show preventative measures, and list typical treatments.  Collaborate with your health or physical education colleagues to have the posters displayed in the gym and locker rooms.

 

Use Video in Assessment

Ask students to use the concepts from the video to explain why most safety helmets are made of three different types of materials, as well as why the materials are layered the way they are. You might make the video transcript available to those with limited English proficiency.  Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

 

(page 6)

 

 

 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: Designing Safety Helmets

Use this guide to investigate a question about safety helmet construction, materials used in the helmets, or how forces affect the materials. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose one question. How can you answer it? Brainstorm with your teammates. Write a procedure that controls variables and makes accurate measurements. Add safety precautions as needed.

         The variable I will test is….

         The variables I will control are….

         The steps I will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely I will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations. Organize your data in tables or graphs as appropriate.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question.  Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert.  How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out.  How does it fit with what you already knew?  How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         One concept I still do not understand involves….

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

(page 7)

 

 

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: Designing Safety Helmets

Use this guide to investigate a question about how different materials react to the same impact force. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How do different materials react to the same amount of force?

Design Investigations

How can you answer your question?  Brainstorm a list of ideas with your teammates.  Write a procedure that controls variables and makes accurate measurements.  Add safety precautions as needed.  For example, you might use a mass, and the same thickness of four different materials, similar to those used in safety helmets, to test how the same force affects each material.  How could you do that?

         The variable I am testing is….

         The thickness of each type of material will be….

         I will exert the same amount of force on each material by….

         I will measure the impact force by….

         To make sure we are generating valid data, I will repeat each test _____times and find an average.

         To be safe, I need to….

 

Record Data and Observations

Organize your data as appropriate. The table and graph below are examples for recording how each material reacts to the same impact force.

 

Impact of the Same Force on Different Materials

___________________ dropped from a distance of _________________

 

Depth of Indentation (mm)

Material

Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 3

Average

Rigid plastic

 

 

 

 

Rough polystyrene

 

 

 

 

Smooth polystyrene

 

 

 

 

Craft foam

 

 

 

 

 

(page 8)

 

Impact of the Same Force on Different Materials

 

 

helmets sci

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question.  Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert.  How do your findings compare?  Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out.  How does it fit with what you already knew?  How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

(page 9)

 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question has yes/no answer, is off topic, or otherwise not testable.

Question is testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, testable, and shows direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data  (e.g., number of trials, control of variables) was not sufficient.

Clearly identified variables that are controlled as needed with steps and trials that result in data that can be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment and safe practices needed for this investigation was followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and Data

Observations are not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations are made, but are not very detailed, or data appear invalid or are not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations are made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim is made or claim has no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim is backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflection was limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

 

(page 10)

 

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