Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
Keeping soldiers healthy and safe was the theme of the day for competitors from MIT and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who vied for the top prize in the third annual Soldier Design Competition sponsored by MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.
"You make a difference," said U.S. Army Gen. Benjamin Griffin in his introductory remarks at the Wednesday, March 1, event on MIT's campus. "You make a difference to young men and women around the world." Past winners of the Soldier Design Competition have gone on to seek patents on their inventions, receive small business innovation research grants, and compete in the MIT $50K Competition.
The MIT team Radiant Flux took the first place award of $5,000 for designing and building a water purifier that sterilizes a liter of water in less than a minute using ultraviolet light. The portable device employs a hand crank to power the UV bulb. Team members are seniors Chandan Das and Justin Holland, junior Adam Leeb, and Gary Long, a staff member at Lincoln Laboratory.
Team EVCO, also from MIT, took second place, winning $3,000 for its device that distills water by harnessing the waste heat from an automobile engine.
Four $2,000 awards went to Team Battle Beacon of West Point for its GPS unit that works with current radio communications systems; the MIT students of team Safety Blast, who created a lightweight polycarbonate material that augments the Army's Interceptor Body Armor system by protecting lower-risk areas of the body; West Point's JoeProof team, for an improved door-breaching tool; and MIT team WaveMaster, for a height and velocity sensor to improve the accuracy of cargo airdrops.
Professor Ned Thomas, director of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies and head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, presented the $1,000 Director's Award for Innovation to the MIT undergraduates of team HydrAlert, who designed a device to monitor soldiers' hydration levels.
The panel of judges included MIT Professors Merton Flemings and Henry Smith, Sycamore Networks founder Desh Deshpande, and Ethernet pioneer Robert Metcalfe (S.B. 1969). The competition is sponsored with donations from Raytheon, L3 Communications, Boeing, Foster-Miller, General Dynamics C4 Systems and Lockheed Martin.
Research at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a multidisciplinary research center established in 2002 by a $50 million, five-year contract with the U.S. Army, focuses largely on materials and devices that will better protect soldiers.