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This 27-pound bridge fits in a backpack

Posting in Design

 It’s called BAMBI, for Break-Apart Mobile Bridging and Infiltration. And at 27 pounds, it goes from helping four people cross a river to being strapped onto a backpack in minutes. 

This portable bridge technology was developed by engineering students at Utah State University for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory design challenge, which they won. They were given nine months and $20,000. 

The challenge was to design a multifunctional tool to help military personnel cross streams, glacier crevasses, and possibly minefields to rescue injured people. Popular Science explains

If U.S. Special Forces agents need to scale a wall, traverse a canal, or cross between rooftops, they typically use an everyday 40-pound aluminum ladder. That means one of them has to carry it in addition to the standard 150 pounds of gear and body armor. It’s heavy and requires both hands -- hands that may have to fire a gun at any moment. 

The team dreamed up ideas involving inflatable devices and technologies that haven’t been developed, but in the end, “we found that the simpler the design was, the better it became,” says Utah State’s Tasha Davis.

There are six sections made of carbon-fiber tubes, along with a foam platform. When fully deployed, they span across 20 feet. And even though it weighs less than my dog, it can carry up to 350 pounds. 

During this year’s competition, the team deployed BAMBI, crossed an obstacle course, disassembled the bridge, and repacked it into a 4-pound backpack in under seven minutes. And there’s a sandy finish for traction, if say, the bridge is used as a ramp over a 15-foot wall. 

The team will likely get a $100,000 grant to further develop and improve BAMBI for military use, KSL reports. Utah State students also won last year’s AFRL challenge with a vacuum-powered vertical ascender that let airmen scale a 90-foot wall without having to use grappling hooks. 

AFRL-CompetitionA-Team.png

[Utah State via Popular Science]

Image: Utah State University, College of Engineering

— By on November 19, 2013, 5:25 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure