Rocket-Launched Photography System Wins First Place
Student competitors eager to continue working with the
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 18, 2004 – Iraq and Afghanistan
may be half a world away, but the challenges American soldiers
face there were foremost on everyone’s minds last night
at the final judging of MIT’s first annual Soldier Design
About 150 people gathered to watch nine
teams, made up mostly of undergraduates, demonstrate prototypes
of practical, non-weapons devices of use to Infantry soldiers,
as well as police, firefighters, and other emergency first
responders. Sponsored by the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies
(ISN), the Competition offered members of the MIT community
an opportunity to work on innovative design solutions for
real problems faced by today’s soldiers.
“We see dramatic examples in the news every day of
how much danger these guys face in Iraq and elsewhere,”
said Prof. Ned Thomas, director of the ISN. “I’m
excited that so many MIT undergraduates, in particular, have
come out for this Competition and demonstrated some amazing
Taking first-place honors and a $5,000 award was “TacShot,”
a rocket-launched aerial reconnaissance photography system
invented by undergraduates Pete Augenbergs ’04, Fred
Gay ’07, Chris Pentacoff ’06, and alumnus Andrew
Heafitz ’91 MS ‘01. The system could allow a soldier
to get a quick bird’s eye view of surrounding territory
by launching a small, inexpensive rocket that sends photographs
back to a land-based computer.
team (undergraduates Byron Hsu ’06, Forrest Liau ’06,
David Lin ’06, Han Xu ’06, and lecturer Tony Eng)
won the second-place award of $3,000 for a system to translate
the silent hand-arm signals soldiers use in stealth situations
into computerized messages for use when individuals are not
in visual contact. The third-prize award of $2,000 went to
undergraduates Matthew Carvey ’05 and Benjamin Smith
’05 as “Team TXI”
for a parachute release mechanism using accelerometers and
a cable-release motor.
Team "EVCO" also received
a special $1,000 Director's Award, given for exceptional accomplishment
as deemed by Prof. Ned Thomas, for inventing an electricity
generator that runs on waste body heat.
Other prototypes presented at the event included two different
designs for pocket-sized bolt cutters, a multi-colored flashlight,
and a soldier-worn micro-climate cooling system. About half
the challenges addressed were provided by experts at the U.S.
Army while the rest were ideas that originated with the teams.
The judging panel for the Competition finals, which included
several uniformed and civilian representatives from the U.S.
Army, said many of the products demonstrated could have real
impact on soldiers’ lives in the near future. In his
introductory remarks, Major General John Doesburg said, “We
have some great young minds at work here. In the not too distant
future, these ideas could be benefiting our soldiers.”
Doesburg is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Research,
Development and Engineering Command.
Several of the teams, including all three winning teams,
are currently pursuing collaborative relationships with the
Army, as well as patenting and commercialization of their
technologies. Andrew Heafitz, leader of the first-place “TacShot”
team, said, “The most valuable thing from this Competition
has been the exposure and meeting people from the military.
I’ve been invited down to Fort Benning, Georgia, where
they work on Infantry equipment. Working with people like
that is exactly what I need to do next.”
Prize monies for the Soldier Design Competition came
from MIT discretionary funds.
For more information about the Soldier Design Competition,
please write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to Competition main page.