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Center for Injury Research and Prevention Engineering Students Honored

Published on April 23, 2015 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 1 month 1 week ago


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Two undergraduate engineers from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) were recently honored during CHOP Research Poster Day. Held February 25, 2015 Poster Day was the 25th anniversary of the event, and 40 researchers’ work was selected by a faculty panel to receive awards. Among a collection of hematologists, oncologists, and neonatologists, the research Richard Hanna and Todd Hullfish presented — focused on child restraint systems and side air bags, respectively — stood apart.

Currently in his final year at Drexel University, Richard Hanna has been working toward a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering. Since coming to CIRP in June 2014 through CIRP’s National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Injury Science Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, he has assisted with data analysis and co-authored a paper to be presented at the SAE World Congress and Exhibition in April.

Todd Hullfish, meanwhile, has been studying toward a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and has been at CIRP since September 2013. At CIRP Hullfish has analyzed motor vehicle crashes, worked on an IV monitoring system, and developed computer models of crash scenarios. Hullfish came to CHOP through Drexel University’s Co-op program, in which Drexel students gain experience in their future fields at employers across the United States and internationally.

Both Hanna and Hullfish have been working with the Center for Injury Research and Prevention’s Aditya Belwadi, PhD. A member of CIRP since 2011, Dr. Belwadi studies injury biomechanics and injury causation, and has published recent papers in Traffic Injury Prevention and the Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine, among others.

Modeling Child Restraint Systems with Kinect

Richard Hanna’s award-winning project was focused on using the Microsoft Kinect for Windows motion-sensing device. Perhaps best known as an Xbox peripheral (allowing users to play games with gestures rather than a controller), Hanna used the device in a novel way: to create three-dimensional digital models of 48 child restraint systems (CRS) representing close to 300 child seats in the US market as of March 2015.

According to a 2013 CIRP report on child passenger safety, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for children older than 4 years and resulted in 952 fatalities in 2010 for children age 15 and younger. Although the number of children restrained in CRS has risen due to awareness and legislation, unintentional misuse of these restraints remains an issue; a 2004 NHTSA survey found that 72.6 percent of child restraints observed in parking areas throughout the United States had at least one “critical” misuse.

With this study, Hanna and Dr. Belwadi sought to make it easier for vehicle manufacturers to evaluate CRS-to-vehicle fit early on in the design phase, rather than an after-thought process once the CRS has been purchased. Currently, there is no standard method of quantifying child restraint systems’ geometry and volume, and the Kinect presents a simple, economic alternative to methods currently used by manufacturers.

Dr. Belwadi recently wrote about CIRP’s use of the Kinect in a post on the CIRP blog, noting “results from this research can ultimately help to improve testing conditions for vehicle and restraint safety devices.”

Finite Element Modeling of Side Air Bag Effectiveness

Todd Hullfish’s project, meanwhile, explores the effectiveness of side air bags and their interaction with pediatric passengers, a little studied topic. While various types of side air bags have become standard in many vehicles, the degree to which they protect passengers is up for debate. To get a better sense of how side air bags affect children seated next to them, Hullfish used Finite Element Modeling to model computer simulations of side impact crashes with accurate anthropometric test devices (ATD), or crash test dummies.

What then is Finite Element Modeling? Last summer Hullfish wrote a post for CIRP’s blog about FEM, which he defined as “a method of computation that represents complex geometry with simple shapes, such as triangles and squares in what is referred to as a ‘mesh’.” The researchers use of a computational model allowed them to examine in detail side air bags’ deployment and effectiveness.

The researchers next plan on testing pediatric models, in a variety of CRS designs. Their work could help vehicle manufacturers and CRS companies design more effective systems for child passengers.

Going forward, Hanna has said he is interested in working in the medical device or automotive biomechanics industries, while Hullfish — who doesn’t graduate from Drexel until 2016 — is considering graduate school.

“I’m extremely proud of Rich and Todd’s accomplishments. For engineers to be recognized among the world-class clinicians at CHOP is truly remarkable,” said Dr. Belwadi.

For more information about research at CIRP, check out the Center for Injury Research and Prevention website and CIRP’s Research in Action blog.