Tackling the concussion crisis in football is at the forefront of sports safety research and development. Through a new partnership, VICIS and a team of UAB researchers led by mechanical engineering professor Dean Sicking, Ph.D., are combining expertise and intellectual property to bring more effective helmets to the market.
“Football helmets have been designed to prevent skull fracture, and they do a very good job at that,” Sicking said. “But helmets have not evolved to address concussions. A VICIS/UAB partnership can change that.”
With industry-leading experts in both engineering and medicine committed to promoting safety in sports, UAB researchers and physicians have advanced a multidisciplinary effort that reaches from basic science labs to large clinical studies to address traumatic brain injury.
Initiatives include those of the UAB Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic at Children's of Alabama, UAB's Vestibular and Oculomotor Research Laboratory that conducts research to identify markers of concussion in athletes, and the UAB School of Engineering, where football helmets can be tested against forces that can cause concussions and where design of better materials for football helmets are being advanced.
VICIS, a Seattle-based company, was founded to develop new football helmet technology that shows significant reduction in impact forces. The partnership with UAB adds expertise to the VICIS team, which is already bolstered by an advisory council that comprises experts and innovators from science and sport, as well as industry partners that have the ability to help make real progress in protecting athletes.
With $4.3 million in funding for fiscal year 2016, the department ranks fourth behind the BME departments of Stanford, Johns Hopkins University, and Oregon Health & Science University. The rankings are published by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, which lists all NIH funding for U.S. medical schools.
The UAB BME Department is included in that medical-school listing for the first time, after becoming a joint department in the UAB Schools of Engineering and Medicine in 2014. Although the department is 11th in NIH funding in the UAB School of Medicine, it is the only UABSOM department that ranks in the top 10 nationally against its peers.
A team of researchers from the UAB School of Engineering recently was awarded a five-year contract as an implementation partner with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).
CASIS is the sole manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, and it routinely issues requests for proposals to solicit high-level research projects. With this contract, the UAB Engineering Innovation and Technology Development (EITD) will be one of approximately 10-12 implementation partners who will help facilitate that research.
The recent contract with CASIS is one of several contracts EITD has signed for work related to the International Space Station. Read more at the links below.
“When CASIS began sending out requests for proposals a few years ago, they found that there were some very interesting proposals that were coming from investigators or organizations that didn’t have the engineering background or capability to put experiments in flight or to build a system that could operate on the ISS,” said Dan Connor, EITD project manager. “These implementation contracts were designed so that groups like the EITD can provide whatever support the investigators need to see these projects through.”
This contract is one of a long line of interactions between the EITD team, CASIS, NASA, and the ISS. Previously organized under the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering, the EITD team conducted experiments around protein crystal growth for more than 25 years. Over the past decade, it has turned its attention to the development and maintenance of a line of refrigerators, incubators and freezers that are used for transport of science experiments to and from the ISS as well as on-orbit utilization.
“We have a strong track record of work with these types of projects,” said Connor, “including most recently a contract to develop a rapid-freeze system. With our background, we can provide science support, engineering support, engineering integration and real-time operation support, in addition to post-flight analysis and data collection.”
Robert Peters, Ph.D., P.E., and three students from the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering recently attended a conference in Alexandria, Egypt, where Peters gave a keynote address on the potential of geographic information systems and drone technology.
The conference, the 9th Alexandria International Conference on Structural and Geotechnical Engineering, was held at the Helnan Palestine Hotel over three days in late December.
Above, Robert Peters is presented with a plaque (right) acknowledging his keynote address at the 9th Alexandria International Conference on Structural and Geotechnical Engineering.
In his keynote address, Peters described the recent interactions between the CCEE department and Egypt, including a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that supported nine UAB students and faculty in a Study Away course last spring—as well as a separate NSF travel grant that allowed Peters to bring students to Egypt for separate workshops throughout the year.
While those workshops have typically focused on wastewater and pollution prevention, Peters’s keynote address turned attention to a different subject—examining how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, can be paired with a geographic information system (GIS) to perform a variety of tasks—such as construction, thermodiagnostic, and bridge and dam inspections.
“Advances in drone technology have opened up a number of possible research areas that before were often impossible because of cost,” explained Peters. “We looked at projects in the past where the cost exceeded $60,000 to get access to an aircraft, not to mention pilots and equipment.”