June 4, 2012 in City

Getting There: EWU students’ device to help investigate wrecks

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Eastern Washington University student Shaun Kim checks the skid marks made from a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office patrol car during a test in a campus parking lot. Funded by the Sheriff’s Office, the mechanical engineering students were testing an accelerometer they designed and built.
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Background and the latest updates

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office may soon be able to pinpoint the exact speed a vehicle was going when it crashed thanks to a device created by four Eastern Washington University engineering students.

The gadget, an accelerometer, measures the friction between a vehicle’s tires and the roadway.

While these devices already exist in various forms, they are expensive, said Detective Dave Thornburg, a member of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office’s accident reconstruction team.

So the veteran deputy came up with the idea of asking a group of engineering students to create one from scratch for a senior project.

The Sheriff’s Office gave the students $200 to build it, and the students got to work.

“Let’s save the taxpayers some money and tap into the talent out here (EWU),” Thornburg said.

On Thursday, Thornburg and the engineering students tested the newly designed accelerometer. The gadget was mounted to a patrol car window. The cruiser sped up in the parking lot to 30 or 40 mph and then the deputy slammed on the brakes.

“We still have a lot of data to sort through and review, but in looking at the initial tests it appears the EWU accelerometer is spot on,” Thornburg said. “In fact, at first glance it looks like it may be a little more accurate than the one we were comparing it to.” 

An accelerometer Thornburg borrowed from the Idaho State Police cost about $1,000; it will be used to compare to the students’ device, he said.

The students – David Ediger, Daryl Smith, Shaun Kim and Brandon VanTassel – were surprised at how inexpensive and relatively easy it was to create the accelerometer.

“All the parts, we got right off the shelf,” Kim said. “Fitting them into this small box was the most challenging.”

The final cost was $204.

North Spokane Corridor

Another milestone in the construction of the North Spokane Corridor will occur next week.

The section between U.S. 395 and U.S. 2 is scheduled to open to traffic June 13, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. This means traffic now will flow in both directions on the northern five miles of the planned 10-mile freeway, from 395 south to Freya/Francis.

“Drivers who have watched our construction for the past three years will be able to enter the NSC from U.S. 395 via a direct connection, traveling at freeway speeds,” the department’s regional administrator, Keith Metcalf, said in a news release.

Contractors built two gracefully curving bridges at the north end of the route, near Wandermere Golf Course, and completed a four-lane section of divided concrete freeway to link the corridor with Highway 395.

A fully paved pedestrian and bicycle path parallels the new freeway, connecting to other trails along the route.

Still under construction are the southbound lanes, from Farwell Road to the Freya/Francis area, and the Parksmith Road Interchange. Those sections are slated to be completed later this year. The Francis Avenue Bridge project is next up for construction, with work expected to begin later this summer.

• Market Street near Stoneman Road will be reduced to a single lane of traffic in each direction through Friday. Workers are building a new interchange for the North Spokane Corridor at Parksmith. The work has closed Stoneman Road east of Market.

• Also, at the north end of the new freeway, work has caused U.S. Highway 395 to be reduced to one lane in each direction. Be aware of detours near the new Wandermere bridges.

• Freya Street is closed between the corridor roundabout and Lincoln Road. Access to Fairview Road, Lincoln Road, Gerlach Road and addresses on Freya is from the north via Freya from Market.

I-90 nighttime lane closures

Final paving on the widening of Interstate 90 from Sullivan to Barker roads is forcing evening and nighttime lane closures for both eastbound and westbound traffic.

Wall Street, Waikiki and Mill

Spokane County is installing new storm sewer pipes, rebuilding this north-south corridor, constructing a roundabout at Waikiki and Mill roads, and doing some pavement rehabilitation between Whitworth Drive and North Country Homes Boulevard. Wall between Hawthorne and Whitworth is down to one lane in each direction; traffic is reduced to one lane only, with delays, where the pipes are going in the ground.

Little Spokane River Bridge

The bridge over the river at the intersection of North Dartford Drive, North Mill Road and North Little Spokane Drive has been removed and will be replaced. Detours are in place.

South Thomas Mallen Road

The county will close it today from West Geiger Boulevard to West Electric Avenue, south of Spokane International Airport, for reconstruction and sewer and water installation. It will reopen by the fall.

Spokane Valley construction

• Fourth Avenue between Sullivan and Conklin roads will be closed 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Tuesday for sewer line work. Traffic will be detoured onto Sullivan Road, Sprague Avenue and Conklin Road.

• Sprague Avenue from Evergreen to Sullivan Road is under reconstruction through mid-August, with traffic reduced to one lane in each direction. The north side of the Sprague/Progress intersection is closed; use Adams or Sullivan Road to Valleyway Avenue for local access.

Deputy City Editor Scott Maben contributed to this report.

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