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Team leader Nathan Ernst and team member Mike Gorski of Adaptive Materials Inc., prepare their prototype power system for connection to a power draw computer system for the 2008 Director Defense Research and Engineering Wearable Power Prize competition at Del Valle Field aboard the Combat Center Sept. 28.

Photo by Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

$1 mil grand prize offered for new wearable power system

3 Oct 2008 | Cpl. Nicole A. LaVine

The Combat Center is hosting the first-ever Wearable Power Prize competition at Del Valle Field from Sept. 23 through Oct. 4 in support of Defense Research and Engineering.

The competition, dubbed the 2008 Director Defense Research and Engineering Wearable Power Prize, is hosted by Dr. William S. Rees Jr., Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Laboratories and Basic Science.

“This competition is a large-scale public method to develop and test power systems for the equipment that our warfighters carry,” wrote Rees in a sponsorship message brochure about the competition. “These participants have produced a wide variety of technical ways to generate power for a sustained period of time in a small package.”

The intent of the competition is to grant a first place prize of $1 million to the individual or team who creates a wearable power system that meets the requirements to be used by modern warfighters. Second and third place winners will receive prizes of $500,000 and $250,000 respectively. 

The events began Sept. 22 with the staff check-in and orientation period, and the hour bench testing began Sept. 28.

Initially, 169 competitors registered for the competition in November, but only 20 teams underwent the 92-hour bench test here, said Sandra Wright, WPP team liaison.

The bench test worked by taking a power draw from each prototype to simulate use of a variety of power systems ranging from GPS to night vision equipment, said David Edwards, special assistant to the DUSDLABS.

Cables that connect to the wearable power system to a computer-controlled power rigging system reads voltage and energy emitted from the system, explained Edwards.

“The prototype is connected to a channel with a load profile that will vary over time,” he said. “Each prototype is given the exact same load profile to keep it fair for all the contestants.”

In order to make it to the finals, a prototype system had to not only sustain power throughout the draw load, but also maintain safe temperatures, be able to provide both 14 and 28 volts of energy and be a reasonable weight, said Edwards.

For some contestants like Scott Schoeffel, European business development manager with Ultralife Corporation, this was their first enrollment in this type of competition.

Schoeffel said he believes the competition is a way to further technology that can have a great impact on the lifestyles of deployed service members.

“We have worked with the military for years,” said Schoeffel, a Virginia Beach, Va., native. “We’re always looking to improve operations and help military members. This competition fits our normal business plans and works with previous programs we’ve done. I think this will be the next evolutionary step for us.”

Contestants who passed the 92-hour bench test Thursday will continue in the competition and perform a four-hour field test Saturday.  The field test requires individual contestants or teams to wear their own prototypes while varied levels of load power tests the voltage, amplitude and endurance of the prototype, said Edwards.

 “We want to offer soldiers and troops flexibility to power different devices,” said Dan Ross, event coordinator. “This is almost like a wish list for what soldiers want. They know better than others what kind of equipment is demanded of them in the field.”

Edwards explained that once all requirements are met, the winning prototype will be determined by which system weighs the least.

The finalists for the field test were certified Thursday, and the winner will be announced tomorrow after the final field test Oct. 4 at 3 p.m., said Edwards.

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