A team of engineering students have designed a backpack system that lets the wearer scale a wall like Spider-Man (or Tom Cruise in the latest "Mission Impossible") that won the Air Force Research Laboratory Design Challenge back in April, as well as a grant from the military to continue their development with it.
Business Insider reports the "Ascending Aggies" -- that's the team name of the Utah State University students -- were tasked with figuring out a way to scale a wall without a grappling hook. What they came up with is a essentially suction pads and a vacuum backpack, coined the Personal Vacuum Assisted Climber. The contraption also has a support system to help the climber with their own weight in case they don't have massive arm strength to hoist themselves up a wall.
The best part, according to Business Insider, is that it can be used on any vertical surface -- glass, brick, wood, you name it. Watch this demonstration on a brick wall:
"The beauty of this solution was that it is relatively surface independent," Dr. Steve Hansen said to Business Insider. He also pointed out you don't need to use your hands on the suction cups at all times (thank's to the support system), which allows "a soldier to use a weapon or other device while hanging from the PVAC."
To create the PVAC, the team was given $20,000 for materials and development and had nine months to get their creation to a demonstration-ready state. Utah State University has more from the team on the contraption and competition, which drew 16 other teams:
“I really liked this challenge because it was hard,” said mechanical aerospace engineering professor and team mentor Steve Hansen. “Coming up with a viable and practical solution really challenged the students.”
The Utah State University team was the only team to get all four military personnel to the top of the 90-foot wall.
“The logistics of this project became real very quick,” said team member Dan Aguirre. “Someone was actually relying on our design to climb a wall. You can’t get that in a textbook.”
AFRL Senior Design Scientist for Design Innovation Alok Das, agrees.
“AFRL gets the benefit of some very creative ideas that address a real military need, while the students get an opportunity to work under real-world conditions,” he said. “They gain experience in rapid prototyping and engineering a solution to a customer need, knowing that their design could truly make a difference.”
Desert News reports some of the interesting elements used in the prototype design, such as "batteries in an ice cream bucket" to power the vacuum, "foamy ends" on the pads to allow it to work on any sort of wall, and vinyl liner on the feet for traction.
The Ascending Aggies received a $100,000 grant from the Air Force, in addition to their $50,000 prize winnings, to continue refining the device.
Some of the upgrades to the device will be to make it lighter, as the team told Desert News it was heavier than they had hoped.
This story has been updated to correct a spelling error.
(H/T: Fox News)