MIT Hacks for the Grunts. MIT has a long and honored tradition of thinking outside of the box, so it shouldnt be too much of a surprise that the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies held an open contest, with $10,000 in prize money, to gather new ideas for soldier infantry tools that could be put into service quickly. Never mind that the Soldier Design Competition didnt require the use of nano-tech. After all, the institutes motto is Enhancing Soldier Survivability. Prize money came out of MIT discretionary funds.
Nine teams composed of MIT students and graduates demonstrated eight different concepts before a judging panel that included several uniformed and civilian representatives from the U.S. Army. Half the challenges were provided by the Army while the rest were ideas that teams dreamed up. First place and $5,000 went to the TacShot team, demonstrating a rocket-launched aerial recon photo system. An idea that was likely borrowed from the amateur rocketry community, a solder can get a quick overhead view of surrounding terrain by launching an inexpensive rocket that sends back photos to a laptop with software to integrate the individual shots into a mosaic. A similar concept is already being tested by the army using mortar shells.
Second place and $3,000 went to the Surreptiles for a system that translates hand-arm signals into computerized messages that can be distributed via wireless network when soldiers arent in visual contact. Team TXI picked up third price and $2,000 to two undergraduates for a parachute release mechanism incorporating accelerometers and a cable release motor.
A $1,000 Directors award was also handed out to Team EVCO for inventing an electrical generator that builds on existing nanowires incorporated into body armor to run on waste body heat. Other prototypes exhibited included two different pocket-sized bolt cutters, a multi-colored flashlight for IR and visual use, and a micro-climate cooling system. Doug Mohney