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U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340
amssb-opa@natick.army.mil

Date: June 17, 2002
No: 02-27

Natick, WPI sign memo to assist soldiers and first responders

Natick, Mass. -- The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center (NSRDEC) 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 NSRDEC 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 González, NPC director. "Keeping our folks protected, out of harm's 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. It's 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, NSRDEC has protected soldiers and improved their quality of life worldwide. NSRDEC's 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. NSRDEC looks at the soldier as a system and addresses soldier protection by working to develop a fully-integrated, protective ensemble.

WPI's new bioengineering institute was the impetus for seeking the partnership with Natick, said Jim Matthews, with WPI's 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 institute's 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 NSRDEC.

"The NPC is the NSRDEC's gateway to fostering technology partnerships in the area of individual protection. Through the NPC, NSRDEC acknowledges the equal value of military or civilian lives," González said. "When responding to emergencies, we should all be equally protected and afforded the best available technology. If the NSRDEC 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."

NSRDEC 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.

"I'm extremely proud of our WPI alumni team members. Their contributions to the NPC's mission has far exceeded our expectations," González said.

Natick is part of the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM). For more information about SBCCOM or the Soldier Systems Center (Natick), please visit our website at http://www.sbccom.army.mil.

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