Go-Go-Gadget Scissor Bridge!

When James Bond is stuck in a tight spot, he always seems to have a gadget or spy tool on hand to help him escape. Perhaps he's been consulting with BYU students. A team of BYU mechanical engineers recently designed a “scissor bridge” – a compact tool designed to help soldiers maneuver battlefield terrain obstacles. Their invention took third place in the Air Force Obstacle Traversing Competition.

The competition--sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab--challenged students to build a mechanism for Special Tactics Airmen that could navigate obstacles such as the spaces between rooftops, glacier crevasses, canals and high walls. Seventeen universities, including BYU, were invited to the competition at the Eglin Air Force base in Florida.

The scissor bridge was part of a Capstone class project and represented two semesters worth of work.

“We wanted something that would be innovative and cool.” said Capstone coach Greg Bishop. “After talking to Special Forces, retired military and other people, we generated about 50 different project ideas. We then selected the one that we thought would best meet the Air Force’s specifications.”

The BYU team built their bridge out of carbon fiber beams with steel and aluminum attachments. When collapsed, it only takes up 1.5 cubic feet of space and weighs less than 25 pounds. This solution is ideal for special ops missions because it is compact, lightweight and can be set up in less than 30 seconds.

The designs were scored according to weight, volume, load capacity, time to set up and pack, ease of use and other criteria.

“It had to be able to support 350 pounds and span 20 feet but only weight between 5 and 20 pounds,” said Bishop.

This competition was the second year of a three-year arrangement with the Air Force Research Lab. Last year, the Capstone class built a Batman-like device that used a grappling hook and winch to lift a person vertically more than 90 feet with no effort on their part. Next year’s challenge has not yet been determined.

The Capstone team included Andrew McQuay, Daniel Newquist, James Stewart, Luke Rasmussen, Nathaneal Hill and Sean Johnson. Capstone courses give students the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge to a real-life project.

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