DENTON (UNT), Texas – For about the past 30 years, the U.S. Army has used the same tactical shelters for their soldiers. Now, the University of North Texas is part of a collaboration with a goal of making the next generation of those shelters, and two Army veterans who are College of Engineering students will be key in making it happen.
The Army has granted two UNT research teams, along with their collaborators at Northeastern University and the University of Southern Mississippi, $2.6 million dollars for this new project aimed at making these shelters stronger, lighter, stackable and easier to transport.
For UNT’s part of the project, engineering professors and students from the Departments of Material Sciences and Engineering Technology will be working together. The materials science team will study the feasibility of using lighter weight components for tactical shelters made out of steel rather than the presently used aluminum. They will also look at improving methods of joining the shelter components. The engineering technology team will test ideas aimed at making the change from aluminum to steel regarding the structural performance.
“We are very excited about this project,” said Sundeep Mukherjee, associate professor of materials science. “It’s a great thing for us as a university and as researchers, but most importantly it’s great for our students. This is the kind of project that gets students excited about engineering. It’s real hands on work.”
Two students in particular have a special connection to this project and a working knowledge of the Army that is invaluable to this research.
“It is exciting for me to be a part of this,” said Jeremy Artman, an engineering technology senior and Iraq War veteran. “Not only am I looking at this from the engineer’s parameters of cost and strength of the design, but also the safety and protection of the troops. When I was in the Army infantry, having faith in all our equipment was paramount. I trust myself to think of this from the soldier’s perspective. I also know setting up tactical can be quite tedious, and I believe the engineers at UNT can help alleviate this with our designs.”
Nathan Derrick, who is also an Army veteran, served for 10 years and did two tours in Iraq. He’s a graduate student in the Department of Engineering Technology as well.
“It’s pretty cool; it’s nice to be on the other side,” said Derrick. “We’re being helpful, and making it easier to set up in the field. There is nothing worse than getting to a new place, like Iraq, and immediately having to pull a detail like putting together these shelters. If we can create a shelter that is easier to set up and gives soldiers better protection, it will be so helpful for them.”
The project began in October and is expected to last two years. The researchers hope the Army will be able to create all new shelters for their soldiers based on their work.
“We are very good at projects like this and we are excited that we can help contribute to the Army’s needs,” said Mukherjee.