Engineering Safer Helmets

Highly Recommended
Like all our Science Reasoning Center activities, the completion of the Engineering Safer Helmets activity requires that a student use provided information about a phenomenon, experiment, or data presentation to answer questions. This information is accessible by tapping on the small thumbnails found on the bottom right of every question. However, it may be considerably easier to have a printed copy of this information or to display the information in a separate browser window. You can access this information from this page

The Standards
Engineering Safer Helmets describes a student project in which a variety of materials that would serve as the best materials for a safe football helmet are tested for enhancing helmet safety. The task targets concepts associated with collisions, momentum, and the impulse-momentum theorem. There is a strong experimental and engineering slant to the task. This NGSS-inspired task consists of four parts. Each part involves a different type of skill or understanding. Collectively, the four parts were designed to address the following NGSS performance expectation:

HS-PS2-3:
Apply science and engineering ideas to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force on a macroscopic object during a collision.

As a whole, the questions in this task address a wide collection of disciplinary core idea (DCI), crosscutting concepts (CCC), and science and engineering practices (SEP). There are 64 questions organized into 17 Question Groups and spread across the four activities. Each question is either a 2D or (preferrably) a 3D question. That is, the task of answering the question requires that the student utilize at least two of the three dimensions of the NGSS science standards - a DCI, a CCC, and/or an SEP.

The following DCI, SEPs, and CCCs are addressed at some point within Engineering Safer Helmets:

DCI:  PS2.A: Forces and Motion
• If a system interacts with objects outside itself, the total momentum of the system can change; however, any such change is balanced by changes in the momentum of objects outside the system.

DCI:  ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem
• Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them. (secondary)

DCI:  ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
• Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed. (secondary)

SEP 3.1: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible variables or effects and evaluate the confounding investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled.

SEP 4.6: Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Analyze data to identify design features or characteristics of the components of a proposed process or system to optimize it relative to criteria for success.

SEP 6.3: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to provide an explanation of phenomena and solve design problems, taking into account possible unanticipated effects.

CCC 2.2Cause and Effect
Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

Here is our NGSS-based analysis of each individual activity of the Engineering Safer Helmets Science Reasoning task. The core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices that we reference in our analysis are numbered for convenience. You can cross-reference the specific notations that we have used with the listings found on the following pages:

Part 1: Designing the Experiment

This activity consists of 12 forced-choice questions organized into four Question Groups. Students are provided three possible experimental design considerations; one of them is not a valid consideration. They must identify the invalid consideration. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all four Question Groups.

NGSS Claim Statement: Apply science and engineering ideas to design an experiment that will test which material minimizes force during a collision.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Forces and Motion PS2.A If a system interacts with objects outside itself, the total momentum of the system can change; however, any such change is balanced by changes in the momentum of objects outside the system.   Engineering Design ETS1.A Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.  ETS1.C Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed. Planning and Conducting an Investigation SEP 3.1 Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible variables or effects and evaluate the confounding investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled. Cause and Effect CCC 2.2 Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

Part 2: Testing Materials

This activity consists of 20 forced-choice questions organized into five Question Groups. Students must use a physics principle associated with momentum and impulse in order to identify important criteria involved in material testing. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all five Question Groups.

NGSS Claim Statement: Apply science and engineering ideas to design an experiment that will test which material minimizes force during a collision.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Forces and Motion PS2.A If a system interacts with objects outside itself, the total momentum of the system can change; however, any such change is balanced by changes in the momentum of objects outside the system.   Engineering Design ETS1.A Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.  ETS1.C Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed. Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions SEP 6.3 Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to provide an explanation of phenomena and solve design problems, taking into account possible unanticipated effects. Cause and Effect CCC 2.2 Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

Part 3: Evaluating Results

This activity consists of 12 forced-choice questions organized into three Question Groups. Students are provided results for a variety of tests performed on material samples and helmet designs and rank them from best to worse. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all three Question Groups.

NGSS Claim Statement: Apply science and engineering ideas to evaluate data that will determine which material is best for a helmet that minimizes force during a collision.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Forces and Motion PS2.A If a system interacts with objects outside itself, the total momentum of the system can change; however, any such change is balanced by changes in the momentum of objects outside the system.   Engineering Design ETS1.A Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.  ETS1.C Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed. Analyzing and Interpreting Data SEP 4.6 Analyze data to identify design features or characteristics of the components of a proposed process or system to optimize it relative to criteria for success.

Part 4: Refining the Experiment

This activity consists of 20 forced-choice questions organized into five Question Groups. Students apply science and engineering principles to evaluate outcomes associated with a modification of the original experiment. Students earn the Trophy for this activity once they demonstrate mastery on all five Question Groups.

NGSS Claim Statement: Apply science and engineering ideas to refine a design in order to develop a design that is safest.

 Target DCI(s) Target SEP(s) Target CCC(s) Forces and Motion PS2.A If a system interacts with objects outside itself, the total momentum of the system can change; however, any such change is balanced by changes in the momentum of objects outside the system.   Engineering Design ETS1.A Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.  ETS1.C Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed. Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions SEP 6.3 Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to provide an explanation of phenomena and solve design problems, taking into account possible unanticipated effects. Cause and Effect CCC 2.2 Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

Complementary and Similar Resources
The following resources at The Physics Classroom website complement the Engineering Safer Helmets Science Reasoning Activity. Teachers may find them useful for supporting students and/or as components of lesson plans and unit plans.

The Physics Classroom Tutorial, Momentum and Collisions Chapter, Momentum-Impulse Connection

The Physics Classroom Tutorial, Momentum and Collisions Chapter, Real World Applications

Physics Video Tutorial, Momentum, Collisions, and Explosions: Impulse and Momentum Change

Physics Video Tutorial, Momentum, Collisions, and Explosions: Controlling Collisions

Physics Interactives, Work and Energy: Egg Drop

Concept Builders, Momentum and Collisions: Case Studies - Impulse and Force

Concept Builders, Momentum and Collisions: Being Impulsive About Momentum

Minds On Physics, Work and Energy Module: Mission MC2, Impulse and Momentum Change

Minds On Physics, Work and Energy Module: Mission MC3, Impulse-Momentum Change Variables

The Calculator Pad, Work, Momentum and Collisions: Problem Sets MC2 - MC5