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Jake Schaefer

The Mechanical Properties of Ramming Animal Horn Shapes


Jake Schaefer ’24


Faculty Mentor(s):

Professor Benjamin Wheatley in Mechanical Engineering

Funding Source:

John P and Mary Jane Swanson Professorship in Engineering & the Sciences


One of the most common, yet very dangerous injuries in the world of sports are concussions, which are caused by brain cavity accelerations. Concussions can lead to serious health conditions such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, which is a degenerative brain disease that can be fatal. Unlike humans, male Bighorn Sheep are capable of, and frequently do, ram heads at high velocities repeatedly without exhibiting clear signs of CTE. It is apparent that the biomechanical structure and function of their skull and horns play an important role in ramming and possible prevention of CTE. It has been shown in previous studies that after impact, oscillations of the horns could dissipate kinetic energy and reduce brain cavity accelerations. As a result, it is hypothesized that the unique shape of the horns could be a contributing factor to this energy dissipation. In order to test this hypothesis, a drop test will be conducted with a loaded container. On it will be attached ram horn shapes as well as miscellaneous shapes. It is expected that when the horn models are attached to the cylinder, the max acceleration on the container will be less than when the other shapes are attached. Based on the findings, the efficacy of bighorn sheep-like horn shapes as a possible energy dissipating structure will be determined. If it is seen to be effective, such structures could lead to designs that will reduce accelerations due to impact in many cases, such as automotives, sports, and construction.

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