Force
Forces and Motion

Car safety features

Classroom Activity for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

These short experiments, using simple apparatus, can be used to explore understanding of the inertia of objects, providing physical models of situations which are connected to the everyday lives of many students. One way of encouraging interaction, engagement, and exploring understanding is to ask one student to explain the process using the apparatus and any diagrams they need.

What to Prepare

  • a model seat attached to trolley
  • a plastic toy person, seated
  • some sticky tape, to make a seatbelt
  • a marble to represent a head
  • some ducting, drilled to form mounting shoulders, attached to a trolley
  • some modelling clay, to form a headrest

What Happens During this Activity

These short experiments are perhaps best used as presentations, where one student explains to a group of peers the physics behind the process. The remainder of the group should form an attentive, critical audience. As there are four parts to the experiment, you might fruitfully arrange groups of four, and allocate different individuals to lead each part.

The four processes to compare are:

  • Car speeds up, with seated passenger, with and without seatbelt.
  • Car stops suddenly, with seated passenger, with and without seatbelt.
  • Car stops suddenly, with head on shoulders, with and without headrest.
  • Car is struck from behind, with head on shoulders, with and without headrest.

As an alternative, you could run the four as a set of linked predict-observe-explain activities, either as group activities, or as a demonstration. They could, of course, be carried out in any combination, and at any cunningly chosen intervals.

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