Jennifer Swanson: 2019 National Book Festival

Jennifer Swanson: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Stephanie Merry:
Welcome to the Library of Congress National
Book Festival. I’m Stephanie Merry, Book World
Editor of the Washington Post. Long before getting girls into
STEM became a rallying cry, Jennifer Swanson
was doing her part. After starting a science club in
her garage when she was seven, examining plants under
microscopes for example. She has gone on to
become a very busy author when she’s not teaching
science to middle schoolers. Among the dozens of
non-fiction books she’s written for children are Brain
Games and Super Gear, which was named the
best STEM book of 2017 by the National Science
Teachers Association. She is also written about the
tiny bugs living on our bodies, why poop is great for building
and how submarines work. She’ll be signing her new book,
Save the Crash Test Dummies, about the history
of cars at 4:30. Now it’s my pleasure to introduce Jennifer
Swanson to the podium.>>Jennifer Swanson: Thank you. [ Applause ] So good afternoon. So as she said, my name is
Jennifer Swanson and I am here to talk to you about my new book
Save the Crash Test Dummies. It’s about the history of
car safety engineering, and no I’m not going to
bore you with a whole bunch of engineering, although I
think engineering is amazing. What we’re going to do
is talk a little bit about how we developed
safety for cars. And then we’re going to play a
very interactive, I hope, game. And we’re going to see how
many of you would be willing to become a human
crash test dummy, okay? Everybody ready? Awesome. Okay so let’s start. Well let’s start. Okay or let’s not start. There we go. Cars, who needs them? I would be willing to raise
your hand if you own a car. Yes. Look at all the hands. Okay anybody own a
car like this one? Like a sedan. Raise your hand if
you own a sedan. Okay how about an SUV? Ooh I see lots of hands. How about a minivan? Oh okay. I am a proud
owner of a minivan. I’ve been driving
one for 10 years. But then I had three kids,
so they don’t all fit there. All right. Anybody own a car like this? If you do, stay afterwards
I’d like a ride in it. Right? That looks very cool. So we all know that cars
and vehicles in general, we couldn’t live without. They’ve pretty much become a –
an important part of our lives, that we use every single day. After all, what would
we do without this? Now who has ridden
in a school bus? Who has not liked
riding a school bus? Oh, I see more hands,
the second time. Okay so cars are
really amazing things. And they’ve been around forever. Possibly the first
car was this one. Okay? The Flintstone’s
car, maybe not. How many of you had
this as your first car? Okay? How many of you had the
souped up version of that one? Okay. So I’m old enough
that my first cars were – we took two cushions
off the couch. Put one in front and one behind and used a paper
plate to drive, right? Anybody do that? Okay, see look. Yeah that was our car. Okay so we all know that we
couldn’t live without cars. But seriously this
was the first car. So I look at that thing
and go it looks kind of like a big bicycle,
doesn’t it? I mean these gigantic
wheels and everything. Believe it or not that
actually had a motor in it. And that was the first
gasoline powered automobile – I can’t even say it,
automobile created by Carl Benz. Now what do we know Benz from? Mercedes Benz. Okay now here’s my
first question to you. How much do you think
that car cost? Back in 1885, what do you think? [ Inaudible ]>>Infinity dollars. Well it might have felt like
it to these people back then. Yes, what do you think?>>$90?>>$90, more than that.>>$200.>>More than $200.>>$500.>>More than $500.>>$1,000.>>Ooh I heard someone. $1,000 — $1,000. Now we all think today
$1,000 for a car, yes please. Okay. Because what, for the
SUV’s, what is it $35,000? $30,000? Yeah. Well you have to remember back in 1885 do you know how
much money they made? You would work all
day eight to 10 hours and you would make $.50, maybe $1.00 if you were a really
good worker and you worked for a really good company. So it only took you
like three years to save up enough money for that car. Now some of you probably think
of this one when I say more of like the first car. So that’s the Model T. And – but the Model T didn’t
come out until 1925. And that one was cheap at $300. So it only cost you a
years’ worth of salary. So thankfully over the
years cars have changed. And one of the things that has
changed about them is safety. So hopefully everybody
knows the answer to this. What is the first thing you
do when you get into a car?>>Buckle up.>>Seatbelts, very good. Seatbelts, buckle up. So we’ve not just added
seat belts to our car. We have a whole bunch of things. We have anti-lock brake system,
so hopefully you don’t skid. We have airbags in front,
in back, on the side. Some of the SUV’s
have them on top. So when – if – if you
hopefully don’t roll over you have an air bag. And then we have the safety
cell for the passenger, which has the crumple zone. So we have the bumpers that – that actual crumple
during a crash. But hopefully not
the people inside. Well, we wouldn’t have
developed all of that with help from a crash test dummy. And right now I’d like
to introduce you to one. Okay, please tell me that
this video is going to play. There we go. [ Video ]>>Okay so the cool thing
is crash has a whole family. So o see there’s a dad, a mom, and then three kids
of various sizes. Anybody want to guess
why we have all of these different sizes
of crash test dummies? Why? [ Inaudible ]>>Right, because you have – a
crash is going to affect people of different sizes
in a different way. But don’t worry; we did
not leave out the dog. So this is Fido the
crash test dog. Now I have to say how many
of you when you put your dogs into the car actually
put them in a harness? Because I don’t. My dog is 118 pounds and
that would be like wrestling. So yeah, she’s kind
of on her own. Okay so interestingly
enough though, the first crash test
dummy was a human. So this is Colonel John Stapp. He was in the Air Force and he
volunteered to be the person that they tested G forces on. Basically as you fly into a
plane and you keep going faster. You feel all these
forces pushing at you. And he said, “Sure,
I’ll do that.” So they strapped
into a rocket sled. That’s him in the middle. And then they sent him off from
zero to 282 miles per hour. Look at his face. Imagine all of this
air flowing at you. And then they stopped it. And that’s him. Did he pass out? Occasionally. But he did this over
and over and over. He actually stopped
being a crash test dummy when they wanted him to
drop out of the plane. You know, that’s
probably not a good thing. So here is the part where I
have a question for you guys. Crash and his family would
kind of like to go on vacation. So how many of you would
be interested in trying out and being a human
crash test dummy? Oh I see some hands. Oh come on, you were like
“No way am I doing that.” All right. Well let’s see. Okay. So let’s see if
you can qualify for this. So if you want to be a crash
test dummy you need to do – you need to like
one of these things. Who likes roller coasters? Yes. The loop de loop ones. All right. How about this ride? Anybody willing to
go on this one? Okay. How about this one? Yeah? Okay so if you’re willing
to do any of those rides, then you’d probably make a
good human crash test dummy. Because those are
the type of forces. So here’s what we’re
going to do. I need you to hold
your hand in a fist. And as – I’m going to show you
different things that you have to do as a crash test dummy. And as you watch that
if you’re willing to do that, you put up a finger. By the time we’re done we’ll
see if you have 10, okay? Everyone is like “No way I’m
not even holding up one finger.” All right, here we go. Here is your first test. You have to be willing
to lie on the ground as the car comes towards you. And it scoops you up into its
net and takes you on your way. Anybody willing to do that? Do I see a finger? I see a couple. Okay so this is – this was the
first version of the bumper. It was actually called
a cow catcher. And they put them on
trains because trains went through pastures and the
cows would sometimes stand on the train – on
the train tracks. And they didn’t want to kill the
cows, so they’d scoop them up and then push the cows along. All right. Here’s the second one. Who is willing to put their head
between two water filled bumpers as they get smashed —
I heard some yesses. Look at this. Hands, “Yeah I’ll do that.” Okay so basically
what another version of the bumpers was they
filled them with water. Let’s think about that
for a minute, right? As two cars come together
what’s going to happen? Well believe it or not they
actually did have a human being who agreed to sit down and have
the two cars come together, with their head. And they survived. So I don’t think I’m brave
enough to do that one. Anybody have two fingers so far? All right. We have the next one this
one is you have to be good at timing and jumping. So you have to stand still
as a car comes toward you and you have to jump on the roof
at the right amount of time. But don’t worry, there is a –
airbag that will pop up in front of the driver so the driver
can’t possibly see anything, including you. But you’ll be safe, okay? Yes? Who will do that one? I got some fingers, all right. Okay, so the next
one is we talked about how important
seat belts are. But of course part of
Crash’s day is that he goes through crashes without
seatbelts. So let’s see what
one would like. Let’s see. Yes. So I don’t know if
you guys heard the sound, but that was the sound of
– the – windshield breaking and you potentially
flying out of the car. Anybody want to try that one? I see some fours you
brave people out there. Very good. Okay so the next one is believe
it or not, when they working on windshields, this person
decided that it would be safer for the humans driving the car
if they got in an accident to go out onto the roof of the car. So this windshield
was designed to pop out so you would
fly out of the car. Who thinks that was a good idea? Yeah, no they only sold like
50 of these or something. Not a good idea. This is why we invented
seatbelts. Okay so then we have
another crash here, what would help this person? [ Crashing ]>>Oh someone said
it, say it loud. Airbags. Very good. So you would want airbags. So who is willing to do
this instead of Crash? Ready? [ Crashing ]>>Do I have the five? You get the airbag
on this one, right? You’re not going to
go out the window. Okay. And then there’s – right
so you’ll end up – you just have to be like crash and
just say it’s just going to leave a small mark. And then we have the
side airbag test. Ready? [ Crashing ]>>Anybody want to try that one? Oh there you go, okay. I got some brave people. Very good. Now yeah, hopefully you won’t
end up looking like that. Now let’s see, we’ve
talkeda bout airbags, we talked about seatbelts. Another thing that we use
are looking out behind us. Well unfortunately we are
not like Mr. Potato head and we don’t get to carry
an extra set of eyes with us that we can use in
the back of our heads. Instead we use what? What do we use? Rearview mirrors
and back up cameras. Now what happens if you don’t
use your rearview mirror and back up camera? Or, perhaps what happens if you
can’t see that behind there. If you look at this, this is
what a lot of people don’t know. You see in the yellow here,
that is what unless you have – some of the cars are starting to
have cameras down at the bottom. But if you only have a camera up
top, you’re not going to be able to see everything
that’s in the yellow. So that’s dangerous. You always look behind you,
because if you don’t then – [ Crashing ]>>Who wants to be in
a rearview collision? Do I have seven? There you go. Oh I got 10 here already. Wait, you might like the
last three, are not so bad. All right, so if you’ve survived
all of these, what you’re going to do – oh I forgot
about this one. So if you’re with Crash, you
just borrow the extra set of eyes off of your
crash test dummy. But if you’ve survived
all of that, this one I have a question for. How many of you would be
in a self-driving car? I see a little more
hands for that one. So this one I would try, mostly because I survived
teaching three teenagers how to drive. So I figure if you can live
through three teenagers, why not let the robot drive? Right? Now do I actually
mean a robot in the car? No, unfortunately a robot
doesn’t come – but for this type of car they actually have
all of these computers. There is a camera on top;
they use what they call Lidar, which is a sort of laser
radar kind of thing. We have sensors on the front
and sensors on the back. And so far they’ve tried them
out and they work pretty well. But the problem right now
is putting them on the road with actual human drivers. The self-driving cars are
having a hard time figuring out what the human
driver is going to do, because you never know. Because nobody ever
cuts you of on the road. Right? Or does something
unexpected – okay. So how many people would be
willing to do – let’s see, do I have eight here
for this one? Ooh I have more hands. Okay good. How about we’re going
to skip that one. How about this one? Skyway to the future. Okay, now to truly
understand this one you have to understand you’re in
sort of a pod, right? And you’re kind of doing a
recombinant bike kind of thing on a rail, which all
of that sounds okay. Until I tell you
the rail is probably like maybe 12 stories
in the air. Did I lose some people
on that one? Yeah, so this is something –
this is a type of transportation that they are looking
and investigating into doing maybe down the road. My fear is mostly
being that high up. Hello? There’s no – like if
you fall, is there a parachute? Do you just fall? I don’t know about that one. Anybody willing to try that one? Yes? Okay. Here is the last one; I
would be willing to be a lot of you would be interested
in this one. Let’s see how this one looks. Flying cars. [ Whirring ]>>Now I know that one
sounds like a helicopter. I couldn’t find the sound of an actual flying car,
but you get the idea. Those are rotors, who would be
willing to try out a flying car? Ooh okay, now I see
a lot of hands. I think that would be so cool. Of course we’re not
that close to it. They do have some prototypes
out that they’re testing. But who knows one day, maybe
we will be like the Jetson’s. Okay and then I’m just curious
how many of you remember in the 80’s do you guys
remember Larry and Vince, the crash test dummy
commercials? So we’ll take you with a
little rich – oh we’re going to move that one, all right. Hopefully this one works. Go back. Give me
the video hopefully. [ Video ]>>Hopefully that took a lot
of you back to your childhood. These were on when I was
a kid and teenage years. So that’s pretty
much my presentation. I’ll take questions in a minute. But what I wanted to tell
you is how many people did – did anybody get all 10? Yes? Yes, do I have
anybody that got over five that would be willing
to do them? Very good. Do I have anybody that
got just one or two? Do I have anybody who says, “No way am I doing
any of those things?” Oh look at all those hands. Okay. Well those of you
that raised your fingers, you helped save a
crash test dummy. And to – as your reward for
that is if you come see me at the book signing, I
have stickers to give away and you can get a sticker there. But I hope you enjoyed
the presentation and then I have a
couple minutes left? Does anybody have any questions
about crash test dummies or writing about
science books for kids? Yes? [ Inaudible ]>>What got me interested
in talking about crash test dummies? So I did a book about
three years ago about self-driving cars and
I became obsessed with them. I even emailed – sent multiple
emails out to Google to see if I could be in their
self-driving car, none of them were
ever responded to. But that’s why I decided I
wanted to do another book. Yes?>>Hi, good afternoon. Thank you for this presentation.>>Sure.>>First a quick question and then a more [Inaudible]
question. I notice that in the photo of the crash test dummy family
none appear to be obese.>>There is one, yes there is
a new one that they came out – I believe his name is Thor. And he is set to
be like 250 pounds.>>Okay closer to me.>>Well we need to have
people of all different sizes.>>Right.>>Because everybody is
affected differently.>>And of course pregnancy
as well needs to be ->>They actually do have
pregnant dummies now. Yep.>>Okay great. And then the – more
substantive question, I am having considerable
difficulty finding a book for a 10 year old
introducing her to the concepts of Naval architecture
and marine engineering.>>Okay so ->>Do they exist ->>For that age, probably not. I don’t know if you read my bio. I graduated from the
United States Naval Academy, so that’s a very
good question for me. So if there isn’t one,
there should be one. But I encourage to email me and I’ll see what
I can find for you. Go to my website, Jenniferswansonbooks.com
and you can email me. But if there isn’t one,
there should be one.>>Absolutely, I can find
a few books about ships.>>Yes.>>Sailing ships, submarines – I
believe you may have written one about submarines and
there’s some others that I think Dodin –
Christopher Dodin ->>But Naval architecture
is cool. We took a whole class on it.>>Yeah. Naval architecture,
marine engineering. I can’t find any
for 10 year olds. I would love for them to exist.>>Well add that to my list too. That might be my next book.>>Thank you very much. Thank you.>>All right, anybody else? Do I have another – oh yes?>>So what – so how
old were you ->>How old am I?>>No, how old were you when you
discovered crash test dummies?>>When I discovered
crash test dummies. So I started those, let’s see I
think that commercial was ’85. And I remember what was
it in the last 70’s was when they started the
whole buckle up thing, anybody who is about my age? To answer your first question
my birthday is Tuesday and I will be 51,
so there you go. There’s that. Thank you, this is a
nice birthday present. So I probably discovered the
crash test dummies probably in the early 80’s. So I’ve known about
them for a long time. Because we all remember those
as kids in the commercials. Do you like STEM? Science, Technology,
Engineering and Math?>>Yes.>>Yay. Do you have
another question? Anybody have another question? Yes oh right there.>>How did – how did the
cars work as engineering?>>Oh wow, how did the
cars work as engineering? So there’s a motor and then
there’s a whole bunch of stuff that connects to
kind of the chassis and all the energy
goes out to the tires. It’s like a really
long involved thing. Not that I’m trying to like
plug my book, but if you look at my book there’s a
picture in there that kind of explains how it works. But you could also
Google it online to find out how cars work. Most cars work on gas now,
but we have cars that work on solar power and a mix of
that and all kinds of stuff.>>Okay.>>Okay so again thank you
very much for being here and for playing my
crash test dummy game. Crash has four words for you
it is safety first, buckle up. Thank you. [ Applause ]

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