Dr. Sara Myers (left) and Dr. Aaron Likens (right), both of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, have created an opportunity to work with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), with the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska, has received a $110,000 contract award from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (CCDC SC) in Natick, Mass., to develop technology for monitoring and analyzing the effects of long bouts of physical stress on U.S. warfighters.
Led by Dr. Aaron Likens, assistant professor for the UNO Center for Research in Human Movement Variability, the project will develop a digital readiness toolkit that will analyze soldier movement and physiological processes in real-time, empowering military leaders with objective data when making critical decisions for soldier well-being as well as mission success.
“We can learn so much more about how long bouts of physical stress affect our soldiers,” Dr. Likens said. “This technology could help prevent injury.”
The project will take place over three years, with year one focused on initial computer coding, testing and simulations. Year two aims to deploy these technologies on data involving prolonged physical stress to gain insights into markers of fatigue, and year three will be to develop real time algorithms and a predictive model of soldier readiness.
Overall, the readiness toolkit will allow commanders to enhance their current qualitative assessments, which are useful for acute individual evaluation, to make them more consistent and comprehensive. It is one element in support of the CCDC SC's overall Measuring and Advancing Soldier Tactical Readiness and Effectiveness (MASTR-E) program. MASTR-E's goal is to measure, predict and enhance soldier and squad close combat performance.
“We are excited to be able to objectively measure soldier readiness over time,” said Dr. Kari McKenzie, CCDC SC technical lead for the project. “This technology will give unit leaders and the soldiers themselves more information about how the unit is performing in real-time, allowing them to make informed decisions that may impact mission success.”
Dr. Sara Myers, UNO assistant vice chancellor for research and creative activity, served as an important catalyst to this work, visiting and touring the U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center in the fall of 2019.
“Dr. Likens’ project is the first of this kind between the Department of Biomechanics and CCDC SC.” Myers said. “We are just scratching the surface in terms of the potential collaborators for the future. The SC team is now aware of the unique analysis and technical expertise found amongst the faculty in biomechanics, so I envision future collaborations will develop and more faculty will be involved. It is an honor to contribute to the health and safety of our nation’s warfighters.”
The project will also provide significant basic science knowledge as Dr. Likens pushes to build the body of theoretical knowledge around the optimal human movement variability hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that healthy, adaptive movements exhibit certain patterns over time. Changes in those patterns may indicate a lessened ability to adapt to novel circumstances. Results from this study will provide a robust test of these ideas in an intense setting.
“I have a strong interest in understanding human performance in general, and this is an ideal way to focus that interest into something beneficial to our society — helping individuals who are willing to sacrifice for our country,” Dr. Likens said.
About the UNO Center for Research in Human Movement
The Center for Research in Human Movement at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) was established in 2014 through a $10.1 million grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). In 2019 the MOVCENTR was awarded $10.3 million grant for Phase II of the COBRE. The center fosters productive research within thematic scientific focus by producing highly promising junior faculty striving for independent research. Each research project is supported by the center to achieve this mission. The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts.
About the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are protected, optimized and lethal. CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the CCDC SC’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. CCDC SC is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness, and to support warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DoD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats.