DoD sets venue, rules for wearable powerpack competition

The Department of Defense announced today the inaugural $1.75 million Wearable Power Prize competition will be held at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept.22 until Oct. 4, 2008.  

You may recall that the DoD announced the wearable power competition was first announced in July 2007.  The DoD says typical soldier going out for a four-day mission carries as much as 40 pounds of batteries and rechargers in his pack and it wants to fix that.  The goal of the “Power Wear Off" is to reduce the weight for the power system that drives radios, night-vision devices, global positioning systems and other combat gear, including a recharging system, to about 2 pounds per day.  The new system should be able to operate for up to four days at a time. 

The DoD is looking to mimic the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which has had a number of successes using contests to attract competitors to develop innovative unmanned vehicles and other objects.  For example, DARPA had some 35 driverless vehicles will race over hill and dale as well as faux city intersections last summer in its Urban Challenge for unmanned vehicles held on a former airbase in California.

NASA too has held technological competitions.  Last fall the space agency ran a Lunar Lander Challenge at Holloman Air Force Base, in Alamogordo, offering $2 million to competing teams that built lunar landers. 

At the powerpack competition, individuals and teams will demonstrate wearable systems that must withstand field conditions, testing their ability to work when in motion and exposed to weather. A number of other rules apply as well, including US citizenship. 

The first-place team meeting the required energy requirements will win $1 million for building the lightest weight system that generates 20 watts average power for 96 hours (including the "wear-off"). The second-place team will win $500,000 and the third place team, $250,000. A total of 169 teams have registered for the competition.  

The "Wearable Power" prize competition is sponsored by the director, Defense Research and Engineering.  William Rees deputy under secretary of defense for Laboratories and Basic Sciences is responsible for overseeing the competition.   

Registered participants will be required to submit an Intent to Compete package no later than 4:00 PM EDT, June 3, 2008.   

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