Aggie superhero device earns $50,000 grant

Last fall engineering students at Utah State and 16 other universities entered a competition to design a system to enable Special Forces personnel to scale buildings or mountains without a grappling hook.

A team of 15 USU engineering students emerged the winner of this Air Force-sponsored competition and took home a $50,000 grant for the school’s College of Engineering.

“I had a chance to attend the competition and there was no one that achieved the goals except Utah State University,” said engineering professor Steve Hansen, who doubled as the adviser for the project.

Hansen said the USU engineering curriculum includes a two-semester design course for seniors. It is the culmination of the education at the school for mechanical engineers.

“In the first semester, in September, they begin a design which is done by December. Then in the next few months they build it and test it and then the competition was in April. The Air Force gave each university $20,000 for equipment to build their various devices. We didn’t know what the competition was going to be until just before the term started in August.”

USU’s winning design incorporated vacuum suction pads to enable climbers to scale a wall.

“On each side you have a suction pad, basically controlled by each hand. Then there is a rod that goes down to a stirrup, which your feet go in. When you have a hand pad stuck in place, instead of having to climb as you normally would with your shoulders, pulling yourself up, by using the stirrups you are able to use your legs to push yourself up to the next level.

“It makes climbing 40 or 50 or 90 feet much, much easier than if you had to pull yourself up,” said Hansen.

Hansen said Air Force personnel will be on campus next week.

“They are coming to discuss a proposal as to how we would spend $100,000 to improve the device.”

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