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Crash test dummies go from four wheels to two

Why should car dummies have all the fun? Canadian engineering students build what they say is the first crash test dummy for bikes.

Screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

How can you get a concussion from falling off a bike? Canadian engineering students recently took the training wheels off a crash test dummy to find out.

Roughly 25 students from Carleton University and Algonquin College in Ottawa spent eight months building an intrepid mannequin that's designed to go over the handlebars at 15 mph.

Dummies designed for car crash simulations aren't considered useful for scenarios where a cyclist would slam on the brakes on impact and go hurtling over the front wheel.

The dummy is embedded with sensors and load cells, which can measure the force of an impact as it careens down a special track. The data will be analyzed to determine what kinds of injuries a human cyclist would experience under the same crash conditions.

"We've been trying to simulate whether you would get a concussion from an over-the-handlebars-type accident," Evan Hayes, a fourth-year student in mechanical engineering, told The Ottawa Citizen.

The current dummy wears a bike helmet but specializes in head injuries; it has a sensor that can measure the force from a sudden backwards snap of the head. The students plan to use it to study other types of injury next year.

During a recent demo, the dummy's bike was in pieces after only two runs down the track, where it hit an obstacle. The dummy was intact.

"There's a lot of people interested in how humans are getting concussions," Algonquin technology professor Wayne Palombo told the Ottawa Sun. "If we can shed some light on that, that would certainly help for a lot of different fields."

The dummy may also be used in a quintessentially Canadian type of crash -- cross-checking in hockey.