NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Vanderbilt University is at the forefront of research and development that may help soldiers stay injury-free.
Meet Karl Zelik. He’s an engineering professor and chief scientist at Nashville-based company HeroWear.
“I direct a lab at Vanderbilt that’s focused on biomechanics and wearable assistive technologies,” Zelik said.
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His team accepted a mission from the military.
“This all came about as a new Army innovation program that tries to match up soldiers with technical and scientific experts,” Zelik said. “So that they can work together to rapidly innovate and try to develop solutions for a soldier identified problems.”
After spending time at Fort Campbell, the team discovered a major issue.
“During the course of the day, we’re lifting 63-pound rounds,” PFC Dale Pulson, 101st ABD, 3-320th field artillery said. “You get worn out.”
That repetitive action results in injury.
“Across the entire U.S. Army, there are over 460 back overuse injuries diagnosed every single day,” Zelik said, “and these back injuries resulted in over a million lost or limited workdays each year.”
Zelik, along with HeroWear, developed an exoskeleton suit to help keep the 101st Airborne soldiers healthy.
“When you bend down, instead of all of the strain going through your lower back, some of the strain is redirected to go through the exosuit. Essentially, all we’re doing is putting another set of muscles in parallel with your back muscles,” Zelik said.
The suit was put to the test during a 14-hour-long field exercise at Fort Knox.
“It really helped out a lot, especially with getting the rounds out of the back of the truck,” Pulson said.
Proving a useful service to those who stand ready to serve daily.
“I’m excited when we develop something that can actually help somebody, be in less pain, have more energy at the end of the day, enjoy things after work, and just stay healthy, both on the job and afterward,” Zelik told News 2.
Dozens of pre-production units will be delivered to the Army later this year, with the goal to ramp up to hundreds of units next year.