A group of engineering students from Clarkson University recently visited the New York State Police Troop B Barracks in Ray Brook, New York to conduct a test of dog seat belt safety. As part of Dr. Carl Hoover’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Experimental Methods class; Abigail Jacunski ’23, Kristina Franklin ’23, and Hannah Orton ’23 were tasked with planning their own experiment, executing it, and evaluating the results. “It’s an opportunity for them to dig deep on a hands-on project of their choosing,” Dr. Hoover said.
Explaining the group’s motivation for choosing this topic, junior engineering student Abigail Jacunski said, “There’s not much on the internet about dog seat belts, most dog seat belts that exist have not been tested – they are only a means of restraining the dog in the car. We wanted to see what is safest for the dog.
A reproducible substitute for automatic impact was an important part of this experiment. The solution was the “Seat Belt Convincer”, a device New York State Troopers use to simulate a low-speed (5-10 mph) automobile collision. A car seat with a harness is attached to a ramp and can slide down and hit the padded lower end of the slope. For the Experimental Methods class, this was the step they needed to run their tests.
Not on real dogs of course! The students needed an Anthropomorphic Testing Device (ATD) or a crash test dummy. So they bought stuffed dogs and filled them with sand to approximate the weight of a real dog. “They’ve designed instrumentation and control circuitry to be able to measure dogs in impact…and then hopefully identify certain configurations of the harness so they can tell what’s safe and what’s not.” is not for 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 on a nearby laptop computer and a cell phone used as a secondary recording device.
Speaking about the follow-up work to be done, Abigail shared “I really enjoy analyzing data, writing MATLAB programs and doing calculations to find out what our results are from the raw data we collect today.” These results will be collected in a scientific paper in the hope of contributing to this question they are working on.
Clarkson engineering students in Dr. Hoover’s class are encouraged to explore experimental projects that have a positive impact on society, the economy, or the environment. During the semester, students offer engineering tests based on their own ideas for wider 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 includes a schedule, budget and security risk assessment. Teams share project progress in weekly reports with their peers, who provide constructive feedback. Students complete this Clarkson test engineering experiment by writing a scientific paper and presenting their work to the class.
Abigail, Kristina, Hannah and their puppy pals Paulo and Pawger thank Mr. Brendan Frost and the New York State Police Forensic Identification Unit for making their seatbelt safety test possible for dog.