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Building models to understand and mitigate brain injury

This lesson sparks students’ curiosity about the brain and helps them understand and mitigate brain injury. Students construct a model of the human brain, equip it with impact sensors, and use data to develop and test designs for protective head gear. This interdisciplinary lesson teaches physical science, life science, health, engineering design, and data science skills. It leverages Excel’s powerful visualizations to engage students in understanding forces and human anatomy in an exciting series of hands-on activities. 

Watch this video to get familiar with the lesson.  

  • 6-8th grade, 10-14 years, Duration: Four to six 50-minute class periods 
  • Job roles: Sports coach, statistician, trainer  
  • Disciplines: Math, physiology, anatomy 

Please note that activities will require adult supervision.


Learning objectives 

  • Locate and describe the functions of the frontal, occipital, parietal and temporal lobes using a brain hat.  
  • Build a sensor-equipped brain model that connects to Excel for live data visualization. 
  • Analyze the effects of a head collision using the brain model and Excel visualization. 
  • Use test data to compare materials for mitigating head injuries. 


Performance Expectations 

MS-PS3-5 Energy: Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object. 

MS-PS2-1 Motion and Stability Forces and Interactions: Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects. 

MS-ETS1-3: Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.  

MS-ETS1-4: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved. 

Science and Engineering Practices - Developing and Using Models  

Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to developing, using, and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems.  

MS-ETS1-4: Develop a model to generate data to test ideas about designed systems, including those   representing inputs and outputs. 

Disciplinary Core Ideas  

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions: Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions. (MS-ETS1-4 

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution: The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution. (MS-ETS1-4) 

Crosscutting Concepts - Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the  

Natural World  

MS-ETS1-1: The uses of technologies and limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions. 



Activity 1: Analyze concussion data 

 Students analyze concussion data from various sports and activities. 


Activity 2: Construct a brain hat 

Students learn basic brain anatomy and functions of the various regions of the brain.  


Activity 3: Equip brain model with pressure sensors 

Students build pressure sensors and attach them to the brain model to measure collision impact.  


Activity 4: Connect model brain to Excel and visualize live data 

 Connect the sensorized brain model to Excel to visualize data from simulated impact. Explore the associated emotions and behaviors affected by the collision.  


Activity 5: Design and test protective gear 

Engage Design Thinking to create solutions that mitigate impact on the model brain, and test them using Excel.  


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