Iowa City 8th Graders Work With Researchers on Tire Pressure Research

By Brady Smith, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa - A group of 8th graders at Northwest Junior High just wrapped up a research project in which they looked into tire pressure, and how it impacts gas mileage and the environment.

This group, called the PSI Spys, found that tire pressure does have a significant impact on not only how much gas a vehicle uses and how much carbon dioxide it emits, but how safe it is to drive.

Shawn Thacker, Ethan Trepka, and Pranav Krishnamurthy got the idea for this study last year from a public service announcement that asked, 'how can Americans save 2 billion gallons of gas each year?'

Under the advisement of Dr. Hector Ibarra, the students worked with researchers from the University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving simulator, automotive site Edmunds.com, the National Highway Traffic and Safety administration, Dr. James Maxey, and the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

They found that for every pound per square inch that a car's four tires are under-inflated, its miles-per gallon goes down by 1%. Their research also shows under-inflated tires play a significant role in crash fatalities and injuries. Finally, they found that people can save quite a bit of money by making sure their tire pressure is where it should be.

"Low tire pressures affect hazards in terms of driving," explained Dr. Ibarra, "so there are many accidents and fatalities that are caused because of under-inflated tires."

"We found that on average, per person, they could save about $200 a year per car, if they drive the average amount of miles per year," said Trepka.

The students were surprised to find out how many people they surveyed for this project didn't check their tire pressure on a regular basis, about 85%.

They told us they had fun doing a project that brought them up-close and personal with real-world researchers and scientists, and plan to do another project together.
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