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Conference highlights 'U's' research benefit to soldiers overseas

By Josh Qian, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 23, 2012

On Monday and Tuesday, more than 350 researchers, government officials, industrial leaders and students from across the nation gathered on North Campus for the University’s Automotive Research Center’s 18th Annual Conference.

The ARC is a University-based U.S. Army Center of Excellence founded in 1994 that develops technology used for simulating military and civilian ground vehicles.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Powering Future Mobility.” Energy efficiency and soldier safety were also topics of discussion.

The conference featured various guest speakers, a tour of the Walter E. Lay Automotive Engineering Laboratory, live robotic demonstrations and technical symposiums.

Sen. Carl Levin (D–Mich.) addressed the audience from his office in Washington through video-conferencing. Levin said there is a need for academia, industry and the military to work together on automobile research to keep soldiers safe and help them carry out their missions.

“We need them to come together to solve the tough problems facing us and to develop the new technologies that will help our military continue to be the best on earth,” Levin said. “The truth is some of the most important weapon systems in our future arsenal are in the minds of the scientists and engineers gathered (at the conference) today.”

Stephen Forrest, the University’s vice president for research, also spoke and said the Michigan area is the global capital of the automotive industry and will continue to play a vital role in the future.

“The region is home to key research facilities for over 300 automobile manufacturers and suppliers around the world,” Forrest said.

Forrest added that one of the reasons for the region’s success is long-time collaboration among top academic institutions in the area as well as industries and the government.

The ARC’s main partner is the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center located in Warren, Michigan. Educational partners include Wayne State University, Oakland University, Clemson University and Virginia Tech.

David Gorsich, chief scientist of TARDEC, highlighted the University’s contributions to developing the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, which a U.S. soldier serving in Basrah, Iraq claimed saved his life in 2008 along with the lives of five of his colleagues.

TARDEC’s Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle was on display outside Stamps Auditorium during the conference. The CERV is a lightweight, diesel-electric hybrid vehicle used by the military and can reach a speed of 80 mph.

At the two technical symposiums, researchers and students had the opportunity to present their respective projects in automobile research.

Margaret Wiecek, a professor of mathematical sciences at Clemson University, said she is working on a project to optimize the design of the battery thermal packaging in order to improve vehicle dynamics and passenger survivability.

“It is a little unusual for me to be here since most people here are engineers,” Wiecek said. “It’s nice to come from another university and meet people at another university to see how people think and see how your work can be relevant to others and the U.S. army.”