University of Virginia Student Designs New Body Armor

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 7 months ago

Reader Brett Turner kindly sent the following story our direction.  Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know that we have harped on the weight of body armor – and in particular, ESAPI plates – in just about every article (on body armor) we have written.  We have strongly recommended government money be spent on designing new and improved ESAPI plates that don’t weigh as much as the current generation of plates.  The total weight of the MTV comes to around 32 pounds.  We have recommended that experts be engaged, from materials engineering to fracture mechanics practitioners.  Now comes a University of Virginia student who has led the effort we recommended, except that there is no government money involved – yet.

The most stalwart medieval knight probably griped about the crippling weight of his shining armor.
The metal’s inflexibility left plenty to complain about as well. And there was its nasty tendency of allowing sharp edges and pointy-tipped projectiles through cracks and creases.

Things haven’t changed much.

The nation’s combat forces continue to deal with these same shortcomings, despite tremendous advancements in modern body armor. U.S. Army Sgt. Jeff O’Dell saw vivid examples of body armor saving American lives during his deployment in Iraq.

The University of Virginia second-year student also knows how Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts can restrict movement and fail to stop multiple bullets. The four bulky ceramic plates now in use in protective vests used by American forces are also heavy, bringing the weight of a vest to nearly 30 pounds.

“I was deployed in Iraq as a fire support specialist from August 2005 to December 2006,” said O’Dell, who is serving in the National Guard while attending UVa. “Our armor vest had single ceramic plates in the front, back and on each side.

“The vest has saved the lives of some of my buddies, but having worn it a lot I know it can be improved upon. It’s too heavy, it doesn’t stop multiple rounds and it doesn’t flex.

“The Army has had a lot of issues with the body armor being recalled, and a lot of the troops have been complaining about its effectiveness, weight and so forth. I really think it’s something that needs to be fixed.”

Last September O’Dell seized upon an opportunity to possibly help save countless lives in the future — maybe even his own. As a double major in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, he took a Design Discovery class that introduces second-year students to conceptual and practical design work.
The class educates students on how to come up with novel products and ultimately market them. The class is broken into small teams of students who work together on projects they originate.

O’Dell teamed up with Ann Bailey, Adam Rogers and Dan Abebayehu. When the student-soldier proposed the idea of creating a better armor vest the others quickly signed on.

“I had family members in the military so this hit close to home for me,” said Bailey, who is from Elkton. “And I like the idea of working with something that will actually be beneficial to someone.

“This project has been a real opportunity to work on something that will actually make a difference. I also like the fact that we’re at a school with so many resources and where the professors are so willing to help.
“When we were in the research phase we needed to figure out a particular thing, and I went to talk to a professor in the materials science department. He dropped whatever it was he was doing, pulled up a Web site and explained to me exactly what we needed to know.”

The armor vest project quickly became more than an exercise in how to get a passing grade. Inspired by O’Dell, who will likely be deployed to Afghanistan later this year, the team began working feverously on a new design that would eliminate the historic shortcomings of body armor.

A few months ago examples of the students’ new vest were put to the test at H.P. White Lab in Maryland. In the company’s ballistics testing facility, round after armor-piercing round were fired into the vests.

The team’s radically new design proved so successful and groundbreaking that a second round of testing will take place on Thursday. This time Army representatives will be present to evaluate the students’ system firsthand.

“The Army is interested because we’ve come up with a design that offers flexibility and more capability for stopping multiple armor-piercing rounds,” said O’Dell, who was born and raised in Martinsville. “A lot of it has to do with our design, and a lot of it is the material we’re changing.

“When the results came out so well during the first round of testing we made contact with a possible commercialization partner, which is an armor company in Pennsylvania. They got in touch with the Army and set up the testing for later this month.

“We actually came up with a concept for vehicle armor as well. During the first test it was hit by 10, 30-caliber armor-piercing rounds and stopped all 10.”

The new vest presents a classic example of what can result from a well thought-out course that emphasizes creativity and cooperation. O’Dell lauded the fact that the class was structured to give students step-by-step guidance during each stage of the project.

The students were made aware of available resources and professors who were experts in areas that could be helpful. One expert was Haydn N. Wadley, Edgar Starke Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He gave the four students a crash course in body armor materials and how they work.

William F. Walker continues to guide and mentor the engineering students. He said his main goal in the class was to motivate students to go out and find their own problems to work on.

“I want the students to find something they’re passionate about, and will throw themselves into fully,” said Walker, associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering at UVa. “Some students will accept the challenge like this team has done, and will go like mad.

“What Jeff and his team members have done is really not in my area of expertise, but the data they’ve gotten in testing so far really speaks for itself. Experts I’ve spoken to who do know this field haven’t seen anything like this before.

When the defense contractors have nothing else to gain because they already have a fat contract and thus no incentive to design something better, a young warrior-student steps into the gap.  What a story.  God bless this effort, and God bless these students.

This information is proprietary, so they will be unwilling to go into too much detail concerning the materials and design specifications.  But we will contact them to see just what we might learn about the effort.  We will be tracking this very closely.

Prior: Body Armor (category)

You are currently reading "University of Virginia Student Designs New Body Armor", entry #2273 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Body Armor and was published February 26th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (677)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (31)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (7)
Ammunition (22)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (68)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (44)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (26)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (51)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (17)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (5)
Body Armor (17)
Books (2)
Border War (7)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (27)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (8)
CIA (12)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (215)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (124)
Department of Homeland Security (13)
Disaster Preparedness (2)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (6)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (3)
Featured (176)
Federal Firearms Laws (17)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (467)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (14)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (40)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (412)
Guns (961)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (7)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (11)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (13)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (45)
India (10)
Infantry (3)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (22)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (378)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (38)
Islamists (63)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (2)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (49)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (240)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (23)
Memorial Day (2)
Mexican Cartels (23)
Mexico (30)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (3)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (3)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (14)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (17)
NATO (15)
Navy (21)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (1)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (53)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (216)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (31)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Police (209)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (242)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (107)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (74)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (28)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (159)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (24)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (17)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (2)
Survival (12)
SWAT Raids (53)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (1)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (92)
Thanksgiving (5)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (13)
TSA Ineptitude (11)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (13)
U.S. Sovereignty (15)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (42)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (210)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (3)
War Reporting (18)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (57)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (17)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2016 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.