U.S. Army, UMass Lowell showcase new innovations for soldier success
LOWELL, Mass. – From new materials for transparent body armor to a drone sensor for use as a way finder underground, innovations by UMass Lowell researchers took center stage today as part of the university’s HEROES Day.
The event showcased UMass Lowell’s HEROES (Harnessing Emerging Research Opportunities to Empower Soldiers) Initiative, a partnership between the university and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Soldier Center in Natick.
The project unites UMass Lowell faculty researchers and students in the sciences, engineering, health and other disciplines with U.S. Army scientists and engineers to develop lighter, stronger and more protective uniform and equipment items for soldiers; portable energy sources; and technologies to evaluate the quality of their water and food.
U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, who has been instrumental in delivering research funding to the initiative, was the event’s keynote speaker and met with HEROES participants to get a firsthand look at the pioneering technologies and products they are developing for U.S. troops.
“UMass Lowell’s unique HEROES collaboration between dozens of faculty and student researchers, numerous industry partners and the Department of Defense serves to innovate and commercialize technologies that keep U.S. soldiers safe,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney. “We are proud of this national model and grateful to Congresswoman Lori Trahan for her critical support of these important projects.”
Since its launch in 2013, the HEROES initiative has received more than $30 million in research funding to support its mission. To date, the partnership has given rise to eight patents for new technologies as a result of more than 120 projects led by 70 UMass Lowell faculty members and 70 student researchers, along with more than 50 U.S. Army engineers and scientists. Professionals from more than 20 companies have also contributed their expertise.
“Our service members make incredible sacrifices each day to protect and defend the values we hold dear as a nation. They deserve to know that the equipment they’re using is as up-to-date and effective as possible,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “That’s what UMass Lowell’s HEROES Initiative delivers. Whether it’s upgrading body armor, improving food and water technology, or so much more, the HEROES collaborative is essential in supporting our military personnel. I’m proud to advocate on behalf of the critical research and development being done right here in the Third District.”
HEROES is led by UMass Lowell Plastics Engineering Prof. Ramaswamy Nagarajan and DEVCOM Soldier Center Research Chemical Engineer Dr. Christopher Drew, a UMass Lowell graduate. Cutting-edge innovations demonstrated for the congresswoman and other participants in today’s event included:
• Transparent armor;
• Clothing with embedded electronics to improve soldiers’ protection and survivability in the field;
• Technology that enhances drones’ ability to navigate in environments that do not support GPS services;
• Innovations for exoskeletons and human augmentation systems.
“The HEROES initiative brings together our faculty and student researchers with our Army partners, who help identify the challenges they face and solutions they need, and our industry partners, who help accelerate the ideas behind new products. The initiative provides our students with hands-on, real-world experiences and is a great example of how UMass Lowell seeks to have a significant impact – in this case, on both the safety of our soldiers and the development of these new technologies and products that could one day be adapted for everyday use,” said Julie Chen, UMass Lowell’s vice chancellor for research and economic development.
HEROES projects involve UMass Lowell faculty and students from the university’s College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Francis College of Engineering; Kennedy College of Sciences; Manning School of Business and Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences. The initiative also leverages the strengths of UMass Lowell’s many research centers, including the Fabric Discovery Center, the Center for Advanced Materials, the Printed Electronics Research Collaborative and Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute, the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation Center and the UMass Lowell Center for Advanced Manufacturing of Polymers and Soft Materials.