Cadets create MRAP lift, win competition

  • Published
  • By Amy Gillentine
  • Academy Research Office
Last summer, the Air Force Research Laboratory had a problem no contractor seemed to solve.

The lab took the task to the three service academies and challenged them to solve it.

The problem: Special Operations teams needed a way to move heavy trucks like Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles -- MRAPs -- when landmines or improvised explosive devices hit them in combat zones.

Academy cadets, led by faculty members in the Engineering Mechanics Department, came up with the best solution and won another service academy competition in May for the third consecutive year in a row in the process.

The project: come up with a small, lightweight solution to lift up to 50,000 pounds.

"That's a whole lot of weight," said Capt. Michael Knauf, one instructor leading the nine-member cadet team. "It's the equivalent of 27 Volkswagen Beetles."

The capstone project was an attempt to solve a real-world problem, he said.

"They wanted something that would scale up quickly and get ready for distribution," Knauf said. "Special operations needed this, to get people out of the MRAPs quickly, and they came to AFRL for the solution."

A telescoping hydraulic jack bested the other service academies.

"The hydraulic jacks met quite a few of the requirements," Knauf said. "They created nine telescoping sections, interconnecting and interlocking that were powered by a six horsepower remote-controlled airplane motor and a hydraulic pump that used vegetable oil as the working fluid."

The project, one of 200 considered by the team, lifted the tail-end of a 46,000 pound bulldozer during the competition.

Not only did the project win the AFRL competition, it also came in third of a dozen teams in a similar National Security Innovation earlier this week that included many other universities.

Cadets got to split $2,500 in that competition, sponsored by the National Homeland Defense Foundation.

"Ours was the best," Knauf said. "The Navy came up with a piston that would raise it two inches, shore it, and then they would reiterate that quite a bit. It took 14, 15 times and more than an hour to do it. Our project lifted the bulldozer the required 18 inches in less than five minutes."

The research lab created the competition because contractors were reluctant to come up with a solution, he said.

The lab also held a competition that week with other universities, and told Knauf that if the Academy's project was graded, it would have come in first or second in that competition as well.

The cadet project will live on, Knauf said. and the department will improve the design.

"We're not really sure if the AFRL will keep testing it," he said. "But we're hopeful that we can take the design a little bit further next year."

Most of the nine cadets graduated May 28 are now second lieutenants, having graduated in May.

They are: Rebecca Bauman, Will Flemming, Alex Pecci, Jacob Risma, Kevin Tanous, Jason Hodges, Mark Jensen, Max Jones and Kenner Roberts, a senior this year.