Students’ knowledge of chemistry and the behavior of various gases is put to the test in this lesson plan based on a real-life scientific mystery. 

In 2011, a steel plated Burlington Northern train tanker car imploded while sitting in a train yard overnight after having its interior cleaned by railroad employees. How could this seemingly sturdy structure have been destroyed?

Students will be provided with information about the train car’s contents prior to cleaning, the products that were used to clean the interior of the car, and other factors such as prevailing weather conditions. Each team will hypothesize what happened to the train car, and illustrate their hypotheses with drawings of both the interior and exterior of the car. They must provide a detailed scientific explanation for the cause of the implosion, as well as recommendations to avoid a similar problem in the future.

Students will be graded on their ability to understand and describe the chemistry involved, and the behavior of gases before and after the implosion. Special attention will be paid to the clarity and comprehensiveness of each team’s presentation - especially their hand-drawn illustrations. Completed projects must be submitted via Google Classroom, furthering students’ knowledge of and ability to use collaborative, sharing technology to create and deliver a polished, professional presentation.