Block by block

Nov 5, 2004

Grand Blanc Cement Products contributes to Kettering's Crash Test Safety Lab.

Kettering recently received a significant contribution of concrete block from Grand Blanc Cement Products ( to help the University take a step closer to completing the Crash Test Safety Laboratory housed in the C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center. The concrete will aid Kettering in constructing a wall inside the lab. Amber Paxton, director of Foundation and Corporate Gifts, helped secure this donation and worked with Patrick McCarty, who is the controller for Grand Blanc Cement Products.

"Kettering University appreciates the contributions of time, funding and resources to this and other initiatives and facilities from all donors, and hopes other may consider supporting the University in a similar way," Paxton said.

Automotive Crash Safety was added to the Kettering curriculum in 2001. The Crash Lab has three components, a deceleration sled, a component test area, and a dedicated computer based classroom," said Dr. Janet Brelin-Fornari, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and coordinator of the Crash Lab. The concrete block will be used to build safety walls around the deceleration sled.

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 the dummy's head or legs. Lastly, the computer classroom allows the 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 Accident Reconstruction course. Also, a lab component to the Physics I will be implemented when the lab is complete (early 2005).

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

In addition to curriculum and research, the Crash Lab will be used to augment the undergraduate and graduate learning at Kettering, and also used for community education (i.e. K through 12 education, drivers training, Safe Kids Programs), summer university programs, consulting, product development, and research.

To learn more about how to help Kettering enhance its brand of cooperative education, contact Amber Paxton at (810) 762-9571, or e-mail

Written by Gary J. Erwin and Dawn Hibbard