U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center and Worcester Polytechnic Institute Sign Agreement

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - June 17, 2002 - The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center (NSC) through its National Protection Center (NPC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in February, which will be in effect through 2006.

The agreement is intended to enable the NSC and WPI to identify, develop and evaluate concepts related to personal protection, and foster technology development and engineering of products--such as biosensors for medical monitoring-- that will help soldiers or emergency responders do their jobs better and reduce the risk of injuries.

"Recent history has taught us some really harsh lessons," said Rita GonzŠlez, NPC director. "Keeping our folks protected, out of harmís way or being able to find rescuers lost in debris is high on the national priority list."

Bill Haskell, senior engineer with the NPC, sees great value in this relationship.

"Being able to track and monitor people is a technical priority for warfighters and emergency responders. Itís an area of interest for both Natick Soldier Center and WPI, just ripe for collaboration," he said.

Haskell is highly involved in advancing the protection needs of the National Fire Protection Association, International Association of Fire Fighters, Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search and Rescue Teams, and others in the national emergency response community.

Over the past 50 years, NSC has protected soldiers and improved their quality of life worldwide. NSCís legacy to the Army is its many contributions to how soldiers currently survive and fight. Its innovative programs foresee needs and prepare for the future warrior. NSC looks at the soldier as a system and addresses soldier protection by working to develop a fully-integrated, protective ensemble.

WPIís Bioengineering Institute was the impetus for seeking the partnership with Natick, said Jim Matthews, with WPIís External and Government Affairs Office.

"There is a lot of cutting-edge research at Natick that would be helpful with students and faculty," he said. "The instituteís Center for Untethered Healthcare is most likely to initially benefit in areas such as firefighting and physiological monitoring."

WPI contributes high-quality science and engineering programs and expertise, some of which are focused on the technology needs of firefighters and soldiers. WPI boasts a long and successful track record in technology development and producing top-notch career scientists and engineers, some currently employed at NSC.

"The NPC is the NSCís gateway to fostering technology partnerships in the area of individual protection. Through the NPC, NSC acknowledges the equal value of military or civilian lives," GonzŠlez said. "When responding to emergencies, we should all be equally protected and afforded the best available technology. If the NSC can protect the soldier under the most demanding and threatening of conditions, it can provide, through the right mix of partnerships and support, the same quality of personal protection for all who need it, when they need it."

NSC and WPI plan to accomplish their goals through academic-enhancing programs and joint engineering projects. Both organizations will be able to share facilities and equipment as needed, and encourage partnerships with other academic or government institutions and consumers of protective technology.

In June, subject experts from both organizations will be holding the first of many meetings related to this MOU. The NPC six-member team currently employs two WPI engineers through one of many government cooperative programs.

"Iím extremely proud of our WPI alumni team members. Their contributions to the NPCís mission has far exceeded our expectations," GonzŠlez said.

About WPI

WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education, and is recognized as one of the leading outcomes-oriented undergraduate programs preparing people for success in our technological world. Since its founding in 1865, WPI has broadened and perfected an influential curriculum that balances theory and practice.

This innovative and unique combination of educational methods, learning environment and a worldwide network of project centers is located in Worcester, Massachusetts, WPI supports the academic and research pursuits of over 2,800 undergraduate students, 1,200 graduate students and 220 faculty pursuing opportunities to blend technological research and practice with societal needs, delivering meaningful real-world benefits.

For over a century, WPI has awarded advanced degrees in the sciences and engineering disciplines, as well as the management of technology and business. Our alumni include Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocketry; Harold Black, inventor of the principle of negative-feedback; Carl Clark, inventor of the first practical airbag safety system; Dean Kamen, inventor of the first wearable drug infusion pump; and many others who contribute to the transformation of our technological world.