Kettering University Crash Safety Center, Flint, Mich.
At Kettering’s crash-test facility, visitors get to watch something being mercilessly smashed. Here, students and technicians test the strength and durability of automobile seats, seatbelts, airbags and other components. Using a deceleration sled that takes just 100 milliseconds to stop subjects moving at up to 40 miles an hour, researchers create 70 Gs of deceleration—100 times the jolt of braking in traffic. In addition to testing commercial autos, Kettering conducts occupant-safety tests for military transport vehicles and investigates things like how safe it is for a pop star to drive around with a baby in her lap. A workshop for kids allows them to create safety systems for eggs on a mini sled.
Trip tip: Be sure to meet Kettering’s family of crash-test dummies. Peek at the steel-and-rubber innards of dismembered dummies and, when they’re not being hurled into a wall, have your picture taken with them.
Info: E-mail Sheryl Janca or go to Kettering Crash Safety
Kansas Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson, Kansas
A two-minute elevator ride brings visitors 650 feet belowground into the winding mines of one of the country’s largest salt deposits. At the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, 150 miles of tunnels connect 980 acres of mines, which provide 500,000 tons of road salt every year. On your way through, you’ll meander beneath 17-foot walls of sparkling crystalline salt and learn about the science and history of the mine, which opened in 1923. You’ll see how water droplets collect salt dust that builds to form hollow stalactites, or “salt straws,” which can grow to five feet before falling from the ceiling. Salt being a natural preservative, the tour includes relics such as the world’s oldest-known living organisms—250-million-year-old bacteria—and unusual items miners of yore have left behind.
Trip tip: Adjacent to the museum is a bonus feature: Underground Vaults and Storage, a two-million-square-foot archive that depends on the stable climate to protect seven million boxes filled with documents from around the globe, and the original reels of almost every movie ever made.
Info: Admission is $7.35–$18.25; reservations encouraged; Kansas Underground Salt Museum
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.