WPI Fire Researchers to Appear in Upcoming NOVA Special on 9/11

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Viewing Note: The NOVA special will be shown on campus in the Class of 1946 Lounge in the WPI Rubin Campus Center. The viewing, beginning at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, is open to the public. Seating capacity is limited.

Worcester, Mass. - Five years after the 9/11 disaster, the PBS science series NOVA, in a special documentary that will air nationally at 8 p.m. on Sept. 5, will return to the topic of the World Trade Center towers and why they collapsed on that tragic day. And once again, WPI will be a part of the story.

"Building on Ground Zero," NOVA’s look back at the factors that led to the fall of the towers and the technological lessons that have been learned in the years since, will include footage of Jonathan R. Barnett, professor of fire protection engineering at WPI, and a team of undergraduates conducting research at WPI's fire test simulator facility at Alden Research Laboratory in Holden, Mass.

Barnett and his students have used the test facility to evaluate how well new types of firefighter clothing protect the human body from the intense heat of fires. The tests are being conducted for the U.S. Navy’s Clothing and Textile Research Facility, located at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass.

The documentary is a follow-up to "Why the Towers Fell," a 2002 NOVA program that also featured Barnett. At the time, he was a member of the World Trade Center Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT), a "dream team" of engineers organized in the days after the terrorist attacks by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to investigate the causes of the destruction, not only of the main towers of the Trade Center, but of Building 7, the 47-story structure that collapsed seven hours after the towers, and the partial collapse of Buildings 3, 4 and 5.

To learn more about the upcoming NOVA documentary, visit the program’s Web site.

To learn more about Professor Barnett and WPI’s fire protection engineering program, follow these links:

  • WPI’s Fire Protection Engineering Department
  • "Hot Gear," a story in the Winter 2004 issue of WPI’s magazine, Transformations, about the Holden test lab and the firefighter clothing research
  • "After the Fall," a feature in the Spring 2002 issue of Transformations about Professor Barnett’s work as a member of the ASCE/FEMA investigatory team that explored the causes of the World Trade Center towers’ collapse