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Bridget Hamblin,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: Pennsylvania State University
Graduate Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Technology (GREATT)
URL: http://csats.psu.edu/GREATT/

Thesis Title: Implementation of Vehicle Dynamic Software as a New Highway Design Tool
College/University: Pennsylvania State University

Research Advisor: Sean Brennan

Degree Sought
M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration on vehicle dynamics

University Department and/or Lab
Mechanical Engineering

Research Focus
My work centers on: (1) developing and experimentally validating low-order predictive models of vehicle behavior to be used by on vehicle computers to predict a vehicles’ response to a given speed and steering input, and, (2) developing new guidelines concerning median design that reflect the changes in the automotive fleet. This research is being done jointly with colleagues in the Department of Civil Engineering.

Description of Research
The automobile fleet on the nation’s roadways has followed a trend of increasing size with the widening popularity of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. Occurring at the same time as this shift in vehicle size has been an increase in rollover accidents. The two issues are directly connected as vehicles with vertically higher centers of gravity are more apt to be involved in rollover accidents. The automobile community has begun working on strategies to prevent rollover accidents by introducing smart braking systems such as Electronic Stability Control. Current technology relies on roll and yaw sensors and triggers a braking response, but account for other variables such as commanded steering trajectory or terrain.

My research centers on two areas. The first is to develop and experimentally validate low-order predictive models of vehicle behavior to be used by on-vehicle computers to predict a vehicle’s response to a given speed and steering input. The models are being experimentally validated using an integrated differential GPS and inertial measurement unit installed on a passenger car and tested at The Pennsylvania Transportation Institute. The second research focus is a joint project with colleagues from the Department of Civil Engineering and is to develop new guidelines concerning median design that reflect the changes in the automotive fleet. Both projects focus on making automobile transportation safer.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
Automobiles serve as a great instructional tool for a variety of topics because it is something most students interact with everyday. My 7th grade science class started the year with chemistry, progressed through earth science, and have recently begun physics. As part of their chemistry discussions, we conducted a lab on air bag technology. We started with how airbags make accidents safer and then used our knowledge of chemical changes to produce carbon dioxide filled Ziploc bags to protect our passengers (eggs) during a collision. The earth science unit allowed for discussions about fossil fuels and the resources necessary to fuel our vehicles. I am most excited about the physics unit that the students are starting. With the help of my collaborating teacher, I am creating lessons to introduce basic physic concepts such as speed, conservation of momentum, and Newton’s laws of motion. Vehicles are great teaching tools since they can be used to demonstrate conservation of momentum during collisions, Newton’s laws of motion, and a wide array of forces while quickly capturing students’ attention.

Profile date: September 2007
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