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UVA Students Design New Body Armor

Posted on February 9, 2009 - Filed Under Body Armor |

For five students in the Engineering School at the University of Virginia designing a new type of armor has provided a first hand look at the world of biomedical engineering. If things go the way they plan, their design may one day protect the men and women on the front lines.
UVA second year Jeff O’Dell belongs to that group of students and he has seen the realities of the war in Iraq. He said, “I’ve been in multiple fire fight, multiple IED engagements. It’s pretty intense.”
O’Dell said he had body armor protecting him on the battlefield but it wasn’t perfect. “The armor system we currently have is bulky, it’s heavy and it’s very inflexible,” he shared.
So when O’Dell and a few of his classmates got assigned a project in their UVA engineering class - taking a real life problem and designing a solution - their thoughts turned to making a stronger, more comfortable body armor.
Classmate Adam Rogers explained, “When we first started the class, it just seemed like another class project. But we met with Jeff and got our group together and everyone was so excited about it. It kept going and never looked back.”
The group has tested their design, a configuration of ceramic layers, and found it can withstand as many as 10 rounds of bullets — better than solid steel.
The team says through the design process they’ve learned a lot. Classmate Ann Bailey said, “This is unique in itself that we were able to start from basically knowing nothing to basically having to be experts over the field.”
Though it’s been a lot of work, the students say it will all be worth it if their design can save lives. “We would hope that eventually we’ll be able to use it, give it to the soldiers and help protect the soldiers who are fighting for us,” shared Rogers.
Classmate Dan Abebayehu added, “It’s really rewarding. It’s our way of showing our appreciation for their sacrifice and their service.”
The students are in the process of patenting their design, not only for body armor but for vehicle armor as well. In March, representatives from the U.S. Army will come to get a better look at how the armor fares in another ballistics test.

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