Eastern students develop cheap accelerometer for Spokane detectives


by Othello Richards & KREM.com


Posted on May 31, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 22 at 11:17 PM

CHENEY-- Some traffic crash detective s have teamed up with engineering students at Eastern Washington University.

Because of budget cuts, some of the detectives have to pay out of pocket for a tool that helps them better do their jobs.

At a deadly crash scene, two things investigators typically see are crumpled cars and skid marks.

The length of the skid helps detectives determine how fast a vehicle was going. They also need to determine the friction on the road surface in order to make the calculation.  An accelerometer does that.

Spokane County Sheriff Detective Dave Thornburg says commercial accelerometers can run $1,000 and above. “It’s expensive, and right now with the budget the economy the way it is, we don't have 1000 to 4000 dollars to spend on this.”

Thornburg is working on his mechanical engineering degree at Eastern. “I approached one of the professors, and said, what's a way that we can collaborate that both university and sheriff's office can benefit.  He said tell me what you want to do, what you need, and I said this is one of the things we need.”

What Thornburg needs is an accelerometer at a much lower cost. The sheriff's office pitched in 200 dollars.

Senior engineering students at Eastern pitched in 8 weeks of their time to develop a similar unit.  They went over their $200 allotment, by four bucks.

Thursday they put their accelerometer to the test against the pricier commercial product to make sure it's working properly and capturing correct data.

The students will eventually donate the accelerometer to the sheriff's office.

Thornburg hopes to have this be on ongoing partnership.