A group of Clarkson University Engineering Students recently traveled to the New York State Police Troop B Barracks in Ray Brook, NY to conduct a dog seat belt safety test. As a part of Dr. Carl Hoover’s Experimental Methods in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering class; Abigail Jacunski ‘23, Kristina Franklin ‘23, and Hannah Orton ‘23 were tasked with planning their own experiment, executing it and assessing the results. “It’s an opportunity for them to dig in deep on a hands-on project of their own choosing,” said Dr. Hoover.
Explaining the group’s motivation for choosing this topic, Junior Engineering student Abigail Jacunski reflected “There is not much about dog seat belts on the internet, most of the dog seat belts that are out there haven't actually been tested-they are just a way to restrain the dog in the car. We wanted to see what is the safest one for the dog.”
A repeatable substitute for an auto impact was an important part of this experiment. The solution was the “Seat Belt Convincer”, a device which the NY State Troopers use to simulate a low speed (5-10 mph) auto collision. A car seat with a harness is attached to a ramp and allowed to slide down and impact the padded lower end of the incline. For the Experimental Methods class, this was the stage they needed to run their tests.
Not on real dogs of course! The students needed an anthropomorphic test device (ATD) or crash test dummy so they purchased stuffed animal dogs and filled them with sand to get closer to the weight of a real dog. “They designed instrumentation and control circuits to be able to measure the dogs in an impact…and then hopefully identify certain configurations of the harness to be able to tell what’s safe and what’s not safe for the dogs,” Dr. Hoover said.
The students used piezoelectric pressure sensors, load cells and accelerometers to measure the forces exerted on the stuffed dog during the test. This information was recorded to a nearby laptop and a cell phone used as a secondary recording device.
Speaking about the follow-up work to be done Abigail shared “I really like analyzing the data, going through writing MATLAB programs and doing math to find out what our results are from the raw data that we collect today.” These results will be put together into a scholarly paper hoping to contribute to this question that they’re working on.
Clarkson engineering students in Dr. Hoover’s class are encouraged to explore experimental projects that positively impact society, the economy or the environment. During the semester, students propose engineering tests based on their own ideas for broader impacts. They develop a formal test plan around a key question, write a procedure, choose measurement techniques, select test equipment, and analyze test data.
The planning process involves a schedule, budget and safety risk assessment. Teams share project progress during weekly stand-up reports with their peers, who provide constructive feedback. Students finalize this Clarkson test engineering experience by writing a scholarly paper and presenting their work to the class.
Abigail, Kristina, Hannah and their puppy pals Paulo and Pawger extend their thanks to Mr. Brendan Frost and the NY State Police Troop B Forensic Identification Unit for making their dog seat belt safety test possible.