Our Project and the Royal Society




Road safety: be a road crash investigator – a Partnership Grants project puts equations in motion.

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“When will we ever use these equations?” is a question often asked of Mrs Physics, a teacher at Lockerbie Academy when teaching equations of motion. Her new answer, with support from a Royal Society Partnership Grant is to work with Road Crash Investigators (RCIs) to put together a 3-D package whereby pupils see a simulated crash (using ride-on scale model cars and dummies) and have to use maths skills, team work, questioning, the scientific process, their general knowledge and problem solving skills as if they were RCIs.

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Mrs Physics explains how her pupils are working with Neil Hewitson, a Roads Policing Inspector, to learn through science the experience of a road crash investigator. She says, “We want to put together some different scenarios of simulated crashes, based on real crashes, which would be laid out in the hall or playground. The students have to determine the causes of the accident and if crimes have been committed. Hopefully this will develop into a bank of resources that could be used by other schools and embedded as an extension to our current courses. We know that young drivers aged 17- 25 years are a particularly vulnerable group who are likely to take risks whilst driving, so in addition to the educational input, the Road Crash Investigator will give a free talk and follow up discussion on a crash that involved local young drivers. Can you think of a more exciting and relevant use of equations of motion?”


Neil Hewitson, who has been involved in roads policing for 17 of his 26 years service, says, “Crash Investigation is concerned with the way vehicles behave before, during and after a crash. The role of a crash investigator is to reconstruct the crash as much as they can from the marks and other physical evidence left at the scene. In order to carry out an effective reconstruction the crash investigator must have an in depth knowledge of a number of equations of motion together with the laws of physics and how these can be used to calculate vehicle speeds and behaviour. Both I and my team have carried out numerous investigations into crashes and I feel the science which we use on a regular basis could be transferred across to students to educate them how mathematics and physics can be used on a practical basis.”

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Marie-Claude Dupuis, Education Outreach Manager at the Royal Society says, ““I think this is a really interesting project because the subject is original and it shows that science is part of a lot of professions one might not necessarily relate to science. It’s very different from the traditional image of a scientist in a white coat in a lab. It also has a different twist on traditional CSI-oriented projects. The use of the cars and the toys is a great example of how you don’t necessarily have to get expensive lab equipment to inspire students and do something hands-on.”


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