Now, I'm not the girliest of girls - I'd prefer to spend my weekends watching footy (especially my Wests Tigers!) than going shopping and I don't mind fast and loud cars - so I knew that the day wasn't going to be too difficult to deal with!
When we arrived it was crazy - I knew these 'cars' were going to be loud but I really had no idea what the top fuelers were going to sound like! Being the science nerd that I am, my brain automatically started thinking about the science that goes into this kind of event.
I immediately downloaded a decibel meter onto my iPhone to try to record the maximum decibels created when these things take off using 8 cylinders powered by nitro! The meter registered a maximum reading of 110 decibels, but after a bit of Googling the maximum decibel output on a top fuel dragster is actually about 130 decibels - so quickly discovered that the free decibel meter only went up to 110 decibels and with further investigation, found that all of the meters on the iPhone only went that high. Our guess is that the microphone can only detect that much!! This would be good for the Senior Science unit 'Humans at Work' as well as 'Communication' in Biology when talking about industrial deafness and the impacts on hearing that being exposed to extremely loud noises and constant low frequencies.
I also started doing calculations to try to work out the acceleration of the drag bikes who travel a distance of approximately 400m (1/4 mile) in 7.3 seconds and crossed the finish line at a speed of just over 300km/h! After each race, both cars time and the speed that they cross the line at is displayed for the crowd to see. Some of the outputs blew my mind! The top fuelers were reaching a speed of over 410km/h over 400m - with not much between the driver and the road than a bit of fibreglass and a metal frame. With some more time, I'd love to be able to work out the 'g force' that these drivers experience as well!!
My mind also went to aerodynamics - how do they not flip?! How do the bikes tip over? How does the parachute work!? What is the best angle to design the front of the car at to stop it from simply flying back over the drivers head?! All of the cars in the different sections were constructed completely differently. We went for a walk through 'pit lane' where you were able to see teams working on cars, up close and personal. You could see the lightweight frames and their fibreglass shells as well as being able to look at the tyres, cylinder heads, engines etc.
All in all, my STEAM brain was in overload! So much of all of these five things was on show throughout the day with many members of the public there just to enjoy the thrill of the race. I would really love to take my students to an event like this to do some real life investigation, talk to some members of a team about how they design their vehicles and have the students design their own cars that we then race!! It's definitely going into the idea tank for future years - perhaps a Science enrichment activity? :)