Engineering students at Brigham Young University (BYU) have devised a firearm that shoots an anchoring device that can pull a person vertically into the air as high as 90 feet. This was part of an annual Air Force Research Lab competition that asked participants to build a tool that would attach to a vertical surface, such as a concrete building, and allow someone to ascend on a cable in a way similar to what the fictional superhero Batman has done in Hollywood films.
“The Air Force wants to be able to go to higher heights, to new surfaces and to be able to do it faster,” the project’s faculty adviser Greg Bishop said in a press release. “They’ve got to be able to still do that, essentially, with either holding a weapon or a communication device,” which is where the so-called “grappling hook” comes in.
Student Dave Monk demonstrates the winch device. (Source: BYU)
BYU’s device can be used to ascend walls at more than 30 feet per minute, which the university said is faster than what military Special Forces can do on their own. It includes a built-in LED light array that seals a UV-cured epoxy to anchor it to a surface, such as a cement wall, according to BYU. The epoxy cures in five minutes, as opposed to the 12 or 24 hours a normal epoxy would require.
BYU took the device to the competition at Wright State University in Ohio April 16 to 20, where its team and other competitors had 20 minutes to show military representatives how to shoot the device and use its winch system. To successfully vie to win the competition, each device must pull three people carrying 300 pounds each up a 90 foot vertical incline, according to the university. At press time, a BYU spokesman said the students had not yet received the results of the competition.
BYU posted a video on YouTube in which engineering students discuss the challenges of creating the device, as well as demonstrate it.
Very cool invention and one that could have a range of utility--from rescue mission-type applications to the ultimate adventure zip line, I would think. It really is amazing how much killer stuff comes out of these student engineering competitions. While much of the work doesn't have the right stuff for commercialization, the germ of some pretty compelling innovations have been born from these events and with the right nurturing and financial backing, who knows where they can go.
I agree Beth - student engineering competitons can have some remarkable projects. I have seen some pretty innovative senior projects as a judge for our local colleges as well. Your comment on commercialization matches my experience in that mass-marketing is probably not practical for most projects but the real world experience it gives students is invaluable and you never know who might take an interest in a student design given the right exposure. The engineering requirements were very challenging on this one - Congrats to the BYU team!
I swear by two-part 5 minute epoxy and use it thousands of applications, and am impressed by the innovative approach to providing a quick cure with the remote UV lights.But it is still just epoxy – essentially glue – stuck to a concrete wall.Which brings me to my second thought – No safety Net-?! For 'Cripes sake, boys, Its just Epoxy!!Get a safety Net!!
IMO, it is unlikely the students in the video used the epoxy system to anchor the line to the side or top of the building. It was likely the claw-type grappling hook shown briefly in the clip and can be seen in more detail here,
Also, it appears, with the anchor point being well secured on top, that the climber has a counter weigh safety line attached to it (the Cougar mascot) so no real need for a safety net provided the line is in good working order.
The method of an achoring device soley by using an epoxy is, IMO, not entire well thought out. Having worked in the adhesives field for a few years, the surface condition of the substrate plays a critical role for a solid secure bond. Cement, brick, adobe, etc. generally are pretty dirty, dusty, loose surfaces, break easily, etc. To rely on only an adhesive to bond to those types of surfaces in a hostile environment in some desert/mountainous location and be able to withstand a tensile and/or shear stress at the level specified will result in lives lost.
But, that what makes Engineering interesting and the point of the exercise. How would you overvcome this?
Also, the theoretical technology was (visually) predated by Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) with Luke using a grappling device that somehow bonded (magnetic/adhesive/thermal/atomic, who knows?) to the bottom of an AT-AT from which, after reeling himself up, blew open the bottom hatch with his light saber and tossed in a grenade.
Some more detail would have been interesting, i.e. if the surface was vertical or horizontal? what the surface was made of and how they overcame the surface detritus, wet conditions etc.
Many years ago we made a TV commercial for Plastic Padding Super Epoxy and stuck a 4" dia plate to the roof of a small car and then winched it 30 ft in the air within 11 minutes (10 min cure time, from memory!). It worked, but we had prepared both surfaces very carefully, reinforced the roof etc. It had to work as we had an inspector from the advertising standards watching with his stop watch!
Batman rocks and his hook were not made out of glue.... and yes a net or a second line attached to a bolt on the wall is strongly recommended. And what's up with the slow ascent? No supper powered penny sized servo motor that can lift you up at 5-10 m/s?? Just kidding you guys are impressive, a little nuts but mostly impressive.
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