Opening with a BANG!

Aug 26, 2005

The walls are up around the crash sled, the safety glass is in place and the dummies are ready to ride. Kettering's Crash Safety Center officially opened Aug. 25.

The Crash Safety Center at Kettering University officially opened Aug. 25, with hundreds of visitors attending grand opening ceremonies and public tours. Research done in Kettering's new facility will make automobiles and other forms of transportation safer for everyone, especially children and infants.

SpartaKUs, the adult-sized test dummy in the Center, was relegated to diplomatic duty as his child-sized colleague, Buster, got to ride the crash sled rails in a Cosco Children Safety seat for its debut run. Both dummies will provide a wealth of information and understanding of occupant protection in crash safety research.

Kettering President Stan Liberty welcomed the crowd, saying the Crash Safety Center is a modern facility where Kettering faculty and students, along with corporate partners, will begin to study the interaction between structural crash mechanics and occupant protection. "An important part of this new center at Kettering is a larger vision, however," he said. "It includes a Bio-Engineering curriculum - which is currently under development -- and a Crash Safety Industrial Advisory Board, whose members represent leading experts and advocates from industry and business."

Janet Brelin-Fornari, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, thanked the 22 corporate sponsors that helped make Kettering's Crash Safety Center a reality. "Since 2003, so many volunteers have given of their time to create this world-class facility," she said. "It is a one-of-a-kind education and research facility. And it makes Kettering University the only university in the country that can offer undergraduate students this kind of curriculum in crash safety."

Brelin-Fornari, who is directing the Crash Safety Center, then introduced three guest speakers to represent the industry, community and government aspects of Kettering's crash safety effort.

Representing industry was Jack Jensen, who is supervising engineer in vehicle safety and crash worthiness for General Motors. Jensen said he appreciated the opportunity to participate in the opening of such an important safety facility. "Usually, I'm known as the guy who spends a lot of time with dummies," he quipped. "Most engineers... who develop systems for cars don't learn the specifics of safety. The young engineers who train here will be able to make a contribution early on, rather than later. That is paramount in safety issues."

Jensen said the country still suffers 42,000 fatalities in traffic accidents a year, plus another 360,000 injuries annually. Losses cost an estimated $230 billion in the United States each year, even though today's automobiles are rated five times safer than just a few years ago, Jensen added.

Richard Miller spoke on behalf of Kettering's partners in the community. He is the manager of community safety services for AAA Michigan. He said Kettering's new state-of-the-art facility will provide automotive engineers and child car seat manufacturers with vital information to better protect occupants, especially children, during automobile crashes.

"The center will also play an integral role in educating child safety seat technicians throughout Michigan and our country so that they can better assist parents and other caregivers in keeping their children safe.

"As a retired Michigan State Police trooper, I've witnessed firsthand what can happen to kids who are unbelted, or improperly belted, prior to a crash. It's a sobering and tragic scene. By working with traffic safety research partners, such as Kettering University, AAA is helping to ensure that the only families who are damaged or destroyed in a Michigan crash are the dummies who work here at Kettering's Crash Safety Center."

Congressman Dale Kildee, a Democrat from Flint who represents Michigan's Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke during the ceremony as a representative of Kettering's relationship with government. He said Congress has important work to do and needs to be guided by professionals in engineering. "We can't go far without sound engineering," he said.

Kildee congratulated Kettering for its accomplishments. "Flint thanks you. Michigan thanks you. And I thank you for all you've done. We'll watch what you're doing here and ask you to advise us."

Other special guests at the grand opening included Jane Warner, chair of the Kettering University Board of Trustees, and Trustee Sam Mancuso. Kettering President Emeritus Jim John, under whose leadership this Crash Safety Center was developed, attended the ceremony.

While the focus of the Center is to study the interaction between structural crash mechanics (what happens to the vehicle during a crash) and occupant protection (what happens to the people inside), it is also part of a larger vision which includes a Bio-Engineering curriculum, currently under development, a Crash Safety Industrial Advisory Board that integrates academia and industry and community outreach.

Occupant safety in automobiles is becoming increasingly important as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards are added or mode more stringent every year. The Crash Safety Center puts Kettering on the cutting edge of training engineers who will better understand the role of vehicle design on occupant protection.

Undergraduate and graduate students will participate in hands-on crash test safety research in the Center. In addition to augmenting curriculum and research opportunities at Kettering, the Center will provide resources for community education programs including research to be conducted for AAA Michigan on an improved design for child/infant seats. It will also enhance Kettering pre-college programs, allow Kettering to be involved in more industry consulting projects and enable undergraduate and graduate student to work with faculty and industry on product development.

"The Crash Safety Center has three components, a deceleration sled, a component test area, and a dedicated computer based classroom," said Brelin-Fornari.

The deceleration sled is a large piece of test equipment on which the interior of the vehicle (also known as a "buck") is placed along with test dummies, vehicle safety systems (airbags, seat belts), instrumentation, and high-speed video. The buck is propelled down a track up to 42 mph and is decelerated using pneumatics to simulate the abrupt stop during a crash.

The component test area allows for the study of impact on specific pieces, such as a crash test dummy's head or legs. Lastly, the computer classroom allows students to review data from the test instrumentation and learn how to set up and perform virtual crash tests. Undergraduates will use the lab through the Mechanical Engineering Occupant Protection course and Collision Reconstruction course. Also, a lab component to Physics I will be implemented.

"The lab is multi disciplined," explained Brelin-Fornari, "so faculty from Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Manufacturing Engineering and Science and Mathematics including Physics and Chemistry will use the lab for research."

An important resident of the Center is a crash test dummy named SpartaKUs, donated by Robert A. Denton, Inc. of Rochester Hills, Mich. SpartaKUs is a 50th percentile male anthropomorphic test device (ATD). The crash test dummy offers a hands-on element to the crash safety curriculum.

Donors supporting the Crash Lab include: General Motors Corp., Dane and Mary Louise Miller, Lear, Biomet, AAA Michigan, AMG Foundation, Autoliv, Callaway Golf, Crash Lab Support, Delphi, Dorel, Global Testing and Engineering Services, Inc., Grand Blanc Cement, Harley Davidson Motor Company, Hewlitt Packard, Jonhson Controls, Kettering University, MSI-Entran, McNaughton McKay, Photron (Motion Engineering) R. A. Denton, State of Michigan, TRW, Takata. These donations and the involvement of these well-known firms help to establish Kettering as one of the up and coming resources in the area of crash test safety and Collision reconstruction.

There is also support from the safety industry in the form of an executive advisory board, which helps guide the automotive Crash Safety Program curriculum, laboratories and co-op experience at Kettering. Representatives from the contributing companies named above, as well as McLaren Regional Medical Center, Johnson Controls, Ford, Wayne State University, Delphi, TNO Madymo Automotive, Kayser-Threde, Holcomb Engineering, the Office of Highway and Safety Planning - State of Michigan and Savage Engineering participate in bi-annual meetings.

Automotive Crash Safety was added to the Kettering curriculum in 2001, with recent advances made in curriculum including a class on Vehicular Crash Dynamics and Collision Reconstruction, which may be the only course of its kind available to undergraduate students in the country, , according to Dr. Massoud Tavakoli, professor of Mechanical Engineering, who teaches the course with Brelin-Fornari.

For more information about the Crash Safety Center at Kettering, call (800) 955-4464.

Written by Dawn Hibbard & Pat Mroczek
810-762-9865 &