IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) – Researchers from the University of Iowa Technology Institute are working with the Army to develop its new combat fitness test.
The previous test consisted of push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run that has not been updated in more than 40 years.
UI research teams were tasked to find out if the new 6 part Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) determined if a soldier was physically fit for the battlefield.
“We work with physical therapists, we work with doctors, we work with athletics, we work with engineers, we work with artists, and all of that needs to happen to make it all you know, to make Santos what he is today or Sophia for that matter. So it’s an amazing team,” said Ragan Bhatt, ACFT program manager.
The ACFT is less about cardiovascular stamina and more about being able to complete common solider tasks. For example, can you carry a wounded comrade or jump over a wall?
In order to do this, researchers use two virtual soldiers first developed by the technology institute in 2003. One is a man named Santos, the other is a woman Sophia.
“It’s really important just for the success of the soldiers to know if their fitness test is able to accurately predict their fitness”, said Kaylee Lichtenstein, UI Biomedical Engineering, and active ROTC student.
To develop Santos and Sophia, researchers have both male and female test subjects perform common soldier tasks like digging a hole, jumping through a window, or carrying a dummy while wearing special sensors.
Lichtenstein works both as a test subject and a data analyst on the team. Her experience with ROTC training has become an incredibly valuable asset to the research development.
“There are some tasks like evacuating a casualty, we have never done the drill, we have never, I mean, all we can do is we can read a small paragraph that’s in the manual, but she has done it many times,” said Bhatt.
The data collected from the sensors then allows researchers to look at the impacts on the body, exerting energy, and more to see if the new fitness test proves a soldier can complete those tasks.
“What we found out was that regardless of gender, everybody performs in the same way,” said Bhatt.
The new training serves as a baseline to test men and women equally. The researchers also looked at variables like height, weight, body composition, etc.
The new ACFT is expected to be fully implemented in military training in April 2022. The research team is now in their third phase of the study which looks at the long-term impacts of common soldier tasks on the virtual soldier’s body.
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