Archive for July 29th, 2011

I’ve commented before how nice it is to live in SE Michigan, as a child passenger safety technician. I have the pleasure and benefit of working with experts from GM, Ford (never Chrysler, I think), Recaro, Takata, and more.

On the other hand, I’m also lucky to live near and work at one of the top research universities in the country. In fact, the institute that I’m part of actually exists to support researchers. Health research is important, and the kids and I have talked about the possibility of participating in research studies at some point.

Who knew the two would come together?

The transportation research department is doing a study of kids ages 4-11, to observe and evaluate their fit in various seating and restraint situations. As soon as I heard about it, I mentioned it to Allie and Adam, who were eager to participate. (The $36 payment didn’t hurt, of course, and I let them keep that money for themselves.) I contacted the research assistant right away to set up an appointment.

Once we got there, the kids had to put on special blue bathing suits, and the researchers painted motion capture dots on them. Then they used a Faro arm to precisely measure each child’s body dimensions in three seating positions. After that was completed, they moved to a special curtained area that was equipped with four lasers (one in each corner of the “room”). ¬†Once the kid was situated precisely, the lasers moved down on their tracks. They made a 3D image each time, like so:

(That’s Adam, of course. Not a good pic, but in real life you could even look at the face and tell it was him.) They did this for each of the various measurement scenarios, so they probably made five or six 3D models of each kid. It was pretty darn cool.

The researchers told me that the findings will be published by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and then used by auto and child restraint manufacturers to improve the design of vehicle seats, child restraints, and crash test dummies. The kids enjoyed joking that they were going to become crash test dummies. I, on the other hand, like to think that by the time Jenny is ready for a booster, the seats on the market then will have been informed by the research that Adam and Allie participated in. It was definitely worthwhile, and we’re going to keep our eyes open for other appropriate studies.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone else ever participated in any sort of health or medical research study? I’d love to hear about it!

(Nephew Nick actually took part in a study when he was recovering from open heart surgery last year, and it turns out that the principle investigator for the study is the recently hired big cheese in my department. Neat coincidence.)

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