A transdisciplinary team of Philadelphia University students has won the top prize in a U.S. Department of Defense challenge to redesign protective chemical-biological suits for military troops.
A second PhilaU team was a runner-up in the nationwide competition.
The Proof Challenge by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD) sought innovative ideas from the public to increase mobility, dexterity and tactility of these suits, allowing troops to complete their tasks, such as running and climbing, in a fast and comfortable manner.
(ChemBio Suit based on Heat Management, Developed by Philadelphia University Students. Courtesy of Jessica Thies and YouTube)
They focused on the arm-to-glove, leg-to-boot and hood-to-mask mechanisms and implemented other technologies, such as BioSkin, to allow users to be at a comfortable temperature while still protected from the environment.
Willard said the experience strengthened her interest in performance textiles for military use. “This project taught me the importance of teamwork and the value in creating an ergonomic product,” she said. “I expect to use these skills when researching and developing performance textiles to provide an optimum level of comfort for their intended end uses.”
(Watch the full process of a Warfighter suiting up in the current ChemBio suit, the JSLIST, to understand the different components. Courtesy of PROOF Challenge and Vimeo)
Other PhilaU faculty members participating in the project were Jonathan Spindel, director of engineering programs; Brian George, associate professor of engineering; Janet Brady, associate professor of materials technology; Marcia Weiss, director of textile design and Harold Neuman Textile Design Chair; Sheila Connelly, fashion design program director; Monica Lam, academic dean of the School of Business Administration; Pielah Kim, assistant professor of fashion merchandising and management; Joseph Fritz, adjunct professor of business law and management; Justin O’Pella, assistant dean of academic administration, Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce; and John Venafro, fashion events coordinator.
Michael Asada, a PhilaU doctoral student in strategic leadership, also advised students for the project.
Mark Sunderland, director of the M.S. in global fashion enterprise and B.S. in textile material technology programs and Robert J. Reichlin High-Performance Apparel Chair, served as a competition judge.
The winners–showcased on the Proof Challenge Facebook page–will work with JPEO-CBD on the next steps of bringing their innovative concepts to reality.
“The thinking, attention to detail and fresh ideas were astounding, exceeding what we expected,” said LeRoy Garey, Proof Challenge product manager.
“This type of public collaboration is something we look forward to tapping into in the future–joining forces with the Americans we serve to help protect this country and our warfighters.”