Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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Classroom Helmet Demos

Summary: Kids like an active demo, and we suggest four: the melon drop, egg drop, lightbulb drop and jello brain. DOT has a very useful guide to some of those, with detailed instructions and photos.

DOT's Demos guide

Here is Demonstrating Bicycle Helmet Effectiveness: A How-to Guide put together by the US Department of Transportation. In addition to egg drop, melon drop and hammer demos, it has a Pledge form. It has photos of each step. Don't miss this one.

The Melon Drop

Looking for a dramatic demo for your next group talk to kids? So was the late Dr. Hal Fenner of the Snell Foundation. He tested various melons for dropping to the floor, one in a helmet and the other bare. Hal concluded that the best melon is a not-too-ripe honeydew. Pumpkins can be better, but finding head-sized ones is difficult.

Take your helmets to the grocery to find the right size honeydew. Shaking the melon tells you which is ripe--you can hear the seeds rattle in a ripe honeydew, so avoid the noisy ones.

Draw smiley faces, or one smiley and one pffffft face on the melons. Hold the helmeted and unhelmeted melons out to your sides, one in each hand, and tip your hands toward the audience to drop them in unison. The unhelmeted honeydew will smash. Whee. The helmet on the other melon will last for three drops, then split on the fourth one, still preventing the melon from smashing.

Hal reported that the kids were impressed, and you have their attention right away.

For a wacky and different angle on this demo, see the Oshtemo Rescue Dept. drop one from a hook and ladder truck. Now that's an attention-getter!

The Jello Brain

Only your imagination limits you in the use of the famous Jello brain mold, a mold that you fill with gray or pink Jello to make a model of the brain. You can order one from Archie McPhee for $7.95 plus shipping. It comes with the recipe for making brain gelatin. For a firmer Jello, you can use the recipe on the side of the Jello box for "Jigglers." The gelatin comes out firm enough to cut into cubes as finger food, so it holds together much better than regular Jello. The Jigglers recipe is on the web.

Here is experience from Dru Malavase, an equestrian helmet advocate:

As part of the video "Every Time Every Ride," a major promotion for equestrian helmets, there is a shot of a brain made of firm Jello tucked into a large Ziploc bag and then into a helmet dropped from 1.8 meters or so. The bag with the "brain" intact is then removed. When this was shot they also did a "no-helmet" drop which resulted in a totally messy pool of goo. (That did not make it into the finished video.) I have two of the brain molds and when I am doing a helmet safety presentation I sometimes bring it along for the (usually kids) to touch, impressing them with the vulnerability of the actual brain. It takes several packages of red and blue Jello plus some extra unflavored gelatin to get it right, but it's always a star when I go to the trouble.

For more brain mold sources, how to make the Jello and more on the use of them, see our page on gelatin brain molds.

Light Bulb Drop

Wrap a light bulb in heavy duty kitchen plastic wrap. Secure the bottom with a rubber band. Tape the wrapped bulb into a bicycle helmet. Drop the helmet top down from above your head onto a hard, flat surface. The light bulb will not break. Now drop the light bulb without the helmet. The bulb will shatter. Do not use this helmet again for riding, although with only a light bulb inside it should last indefinitely for more demos. Be sure it is marked "demo only - not for riding." Do not use the shattered light bulb either! This demo was developed by Dane Luhrsen, founder of the now-defunct Ride Safe.

Melon Drop: Django's Science Experiment

Second grader Django did a cantaloupe drop with and without helmet. Good photos.

The Computer Drop

Minnesota Safe Kids Coalition has a description of a computer drop, using a useless computer, camera or other seemingly expensive object and explaining after the drop that it might possibly be fixed, but it would be expensive and time-consuming. Sounds like a shocker!

Egg Drop

The Minnesota Safe Kids Coalition site has instructions for an Egg Drop.

Egg Helmets

Since the Lexington Bicycle Safety Program (Ride and Roll Safely) folded, we don't have a source for egg helmets.