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Jul 18, 2013 09:34 AM EDT

USU Team Design Portable Bridge for War-Fighters; Wins the National Air Force Design Competition

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Utah State University (USU) mechanical and aerospace engineering students have won Air Force design competition for designing and building a portable device that can serve as a bridge to cross streams, a stretcher to transport the wounded, or a flotation device for Special Forces soldiers.

The team of seven students along with their faculty adviser publicly demonstrated Break-Apart Mobile Bridging and Infiltration (BAMBI) at the Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon on Tuesday.

The Air Force asked teams from 16 universities and three military academies to design a weightless, transportable device that war fighters can use to climb a compound wall, cross a 20-foot wide canal, or 'bridge a crevasse.'

USU team members designed an extremely strong ladder that can be broken down into six pieces and transported in a backpack. BAMBI is built 'using carbon fiber tubes at the sides and two layers of woven carbon fiber over a dense foam core.' The mobile bridge weighs just 27 pounds, extends to 22 feet and resembles something between a ladder and an ambulatory stretcher.

The teams competed against each other in April at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. They had to employ their devices to pass a course of obstacles and gaps.

The USU team, who finished the course in six minutes, competed against 18 other teams to win the national Air Force Research Laboratory's Design Challenge for the second straight year.

Tasha Davis, one of the team member said that the team initially considered using an inflatable bridge, but rejected the idea later.

"This is for the Air Force, so they're in combat. They have to be in a hurry and an inflatable, you have to blow up and you need lots of compressed air.Instead, "we wanted something very simple and lightweight. The more simple we made it, the lighter it became," said Davis.

Following the competition, the U.S. Air Force personnel used BAMBI in a training program for two months.

"They came back liking it, so I think the chances of USU going to the next level to improve it are pretty good," said, Byard Wood, USU professor and former department chairman. "It's a very eloquent design in that it's high tech, but it's very simple."

The team is likely get a $100,000 grant to further develop and improve the BAMBI for military use.

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