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How does the air pressure in a football helmet affect cushioning?Featured science projectScience project video


The materials required for this interesting science project are:

-    4 plastic football helmets
-    Pump (bicycle or ball pump)
-    Pulley
-    A simulation of a human’s head (Styrofoam/Wood)
-    2 lengths of String  of about 5 meters each
-    Cellophane tape
-     Accelerator Probe
-    Computer (Intel processor of Pentium Dual Core or above)


1.    For this experiment, the independent variable is the amount of air pressure in the padding of the helmet. The dependent variable is the force of impact. The constants include the type of helmet used, the size of the dummy’s head and the probe being used.

2.    Tie the string to the bottom of the pulley.

3.    Look for something steady which has a hole in it to allow the string to be passed through, e.g. a metal hook on a brick wall. The structure must be at least 3.5 meters high. Pull the string so that the pulley is positioned at least 3 meters above the ground. Secure the pulley in position

4.    Tie a weight to another string.

5.    Attach this string through the pulley so that the weight can be easily raised or lowered.

6.    Set up the equipments used to measure the force of impact. Do this by attaching the accelerometer probe to the computer. (When you purchase the probe, a cable and a CD for installation should come a long with it)

7.    Carefully insert the accelerometer probe into the simulation of a human head by making a hole on the top of it and stuff the probe into it.

8.    Use the ball pump with a sports needle attached to it. Pump air into the padding of the football helmet. It should read 0 mmHg on the probe. This shows that the probe’s basal reading has 0 impact and any change in this number would be due to the force of impact.

9.    Put the simulation of the human head into the helmet. Make sure the structure is positioned upright and fasten it with cellophane tape to a flat surface to make sure it maintains its position throughout the whole experiment.

10.    Release the weight on the helmet and the simulated head.

11.    Record the reading of the probe. It should be captured in the computer.

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
5 hours preparation time, observation time only takes a matter of seconds. However, do allocate some extra time in case of any mistakes.
Material availability:
Besides the helmets, all the other materials should be obtained from a school laboratory.
Safety concerns:

Be careful to keep clear of the falling weight.