Curiosity car crash

Topics: Physics  Mechanics  Impulse  Curiosity  Questioning  Authentic Questioning  Motivation  Strategy  

Grade Level: University

Context: outside of classroom, written InkSurvey responses given as questions to a prompt  

Overview: This lesson asks students what questions they have after viewing a video which shows a car crash episode segment from MythBusters.

Learning Objectives: To be able to generate questions in many of the categories found here

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Enhancing Curiosity Using Interactive Simulations Combined with Real-Time Formative Assessment Facilitated by Open-Format Questions on Tablet Computers


1. Students view the video prompt and then submit questions labeling the category in which each questions falls. They are given a small amount of credit for genuine effort in completing this task.
2. InkSurvey Question: What questions, with an appropirate category label, do you have about the car crash video found here
3. Use the "sort" feature to select responses in the different questioning categories.
4. email to the students or discuss in class the student responses you sorted. You may have to generate questions in categories for which there were no responses to illustrate such questions.
5. The students could then be asked to do the exercise again to practice generating more questions in the different categories. They could also practice being fluent (different aspects of the same idea) in a particular type of question.
6 email to the students or discuss in class the total sorted responses and ask the students which of the questions might be fruitful in (1) generating a new scientific research topic (2) generating a new product for a company


Students are asked to view the prompt on different days to facilitate the generation reflective responses.

Refections on how this has or has not changed practice? How has this changed your thinking about teaching?

Students were much better able to generate questions in multiple categories.They appear to be learning how to generate diverse questions. Here is a summary:

1.) Incongruous: violating a model or heuristic rule of how the world functions.

Why don't the cars return in the opposite direction at their speeds of impact? Doesn't this ruin the idea that one object pushes back with equal force? Why would this occur, given that based on the video, if one car traveling at 50 mph travels into a stationary car, the moving car would only sustain damages equal to a car running into a wall at 25 mph? Does this not violate Newton's third law? Doesn't this model disprove the conservation of energy?

2.) Congruous: understanding of or gathering information about how a model or rule is applied (typically one just presented in class).

How do we calculate the impulse on each car? How do we calculate the change in length of the cars? How much energy is transferred to the different materials that make up the car? How do you measure the energy that went into the energy of deformation of the two vehicles? What would happen if this was a perfectly elastic collision? How do I use Newton's laws in this case? How do the impulse and the work done differ from the 2 car collision and the car-wall collision?

3.) Modifying: probing what happens when the assumptions, parts, application, or parameters of the model or rule are changed. Sometimes this is used to simplify the problem to determine the fundamental cause/effect relationship.

If the speed was double again, would the same thing occur? If we made both cars boxes that cannot collapse at all, would both cars travels backwards the same distance after the crash? What happens as the angle of impact changes? Would the cars still look like the 50 mph car hitting the wall if they had larger masses, or were trucks? How does this compare to the pool ball collision example? How does this change if extra weight is put in the back of the car?

4.) Generalizing/Analogy: comparing one model with another, drawing analogies or generalizing the model.

Can this situation apply when two comets hit each other? Does the same thing happen if it is two atoms or molecules that hit each other? How would this concept apply to sports?

5.) Causal/Creative: attempt to generate a new model, improve on an existing one, searching for novel patterns, or trying to simplify the problem to more easily determine the fundamental causes of the effect.

What happens if the cars aren't cars, if they are electrons? How would the electrons wavelength change after the crash? What if there was a three-way collision? What would happen if the cars traveled the speed of light?

6.) Informational: finding information simply for its intrinsic interest or for diagnostic purposes.

Why test the cars at 50 mph, not 100 mph?How do they make the cars move at 50 mph?What laws of physics justify how the doubling of speed cause a quadrupling of energy, damage and force?Would the damage to the car be identical if it crashed into a stationary wall instead of another moving car?Is this collision elastic of inelastic?