Utah State University engineering students have developed a design platform that could be used as a bridge across a 20-foot gap, a stretcher to carry the wounded out of battle, or a floatation device.
The mechanical and aerospace engineering students and their faculty adviser demonstrated BAMBI, or Break-Apart Mobile Bridging and Infiltration, at the Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon after winning the national Air Force Research Laboratory’s Design Challenge for the second straight year.
The USU College of Engineering will now compete to secure a $100,000 grant to further develop its idea for the Air Force.
U.S. Air Force personnel actually used BAMBI in a training program for two months following the competition.
“They came back liking it, so I think the chances of USU going to the next level to improve it are pretty good,” said USU professor and former department chairman Byard Wood on Tuesday. “It’s a very eloquent design in that it’s high tech, but it’s very simple.”
Specifically, the two rails to provide structural support are made of carbon fiber, while the platform is a compound of foam board with carbon fiber wrapped around it to give it strength, Wood said. It weights about 25 pounds.
To demonstrate its mobility, the USU students unhooked the five pieces that made the 22-foot device and strapped it onto the back of one of them.
Faculty adviser Dennis O’Hara said the design is ideal “when the military is stressed” under certain conditions, so the students tied to make it easy to use.
O’Hara lead the seven mechanical and aerospace engineering seniors who were participating in their senior capstone class: Claire Hawkins, Taylor Clawson, Ben Scott, Tasha Davis, Michael Terry, Ruth Miller and Joseph Woods.
The competition is good for these students, Wood said.
“I’m really excited because the students create very interesting designs and this is one of those designs, but this is a national competition, so there’s more of an incentive for the students to work harder and be more creative,” Wood said. “When we started we had two teams, and each took a solution, and this is the one that won the national competition.”
The first place design recognition comes a year after USU engineering students designed a system for special operations force personnel to scale buildings or mountain faces under a variety of conditions. They did it using three components — a vacuum ascender, an adhesive anchor and a rope ascender.
This year’s Design Challenge goal was to be able to have device with the ability to cross a horizontal gap and be portable.
“It was really great. When we got there, I was really surprised at what the competition brought forth,” Scott said. “(Judges at the competition) loved how light it was and easy to deploy. They liked that we had a solid platform they could walk on, they didn’t have to look down and see where they were stepping. ... It’s really satisfying to be able to see something used in the real world, particularly when it’s your first ‘real design.’ I really love the idea of multi-use and simplification.”
O’Hara commented on the students work over the last several months with this project.
“I’m really thrilled we got to first place. The purpose of the class was to bring students to a reality of how to design things — follow a schedule, follow a budget. This is the only class that they’ll be able to do that,” O’Harra said. “Many students are surprised by the class, because they spend all their time in an academic class. In this class we only give them guidelines. They have to think things out. I don’t give them the solutions.”