A Crash Course in Railway Crashworthiness online course

Just like road vehicles, railway vehicles need to protect their occupants in the event of a crash, but the speeds, masses and amounts of energy involved are far greater.

This online course for current Years 11/12 (S5/S6 Scotland, Yrs 12/13 NI) will introduce science of crashworthiness, and then support you to design and construct a scale-model crashworthy rail vehicle that you’ll then test on a ramp that you’ll also build. You will use your smartphone to record high-speed video of the crash, and analyse this to work out how your design performs and how well-protected passengers would have been.

Course timings: 26 – 28 July 2021 10.00 - 16.00 hrs, 29 July 10:00 – 13:00 hrs followed by a prize giving session on 2nd August 2021 from 10:00 - 12:00 hrs.


26 Jul - 29 Jul 2021
Start time: 10:00 hrs
Finish time: 16:00 hrs


University of Birmingham (delivered online and through the post)




* If cost is a barrier please see our FAQ for more details.


This course will start with a number of interactive online lectures to ensure you have the basic knowledge that you’ll need. You’ll start by working out how much energy needs to be absorbed, and conduct materials testing using kitchen scales to work out how useful various materials are likely to be. This will help inform your design, and once you’ve sketched out something that ‘works on paper’, you’ll construct and test your scale model vehicle. Your mentor will be there to offer online help and advice throughout each stage, and your final design and crash test video will be submitted to be assessed by staff. Prizes will be awarded the following week across various categories covering design, construction and performance.

A ‘kit of bits’ will be sent to you in advance of the course, and to keep things fair you’ll be restricted to using these components plus specific household items for your design. You might also need to buy certain tools in advance (e.g. a hot glue gun) if you don’t already them.

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