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Posted 6/8/2018

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By Gwyn G. Neill

VICKSBURG, Miss. (April 20, 2018) – Whether contemplating Plato’s words, “necessity is the mother of invention,” or considering Thomas Edison’s, “There is always a better way,” researchers at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi, often take these old adages to heart. Because he recognized a need and found a better way, Capt. Daniel Harder, a research civil engineer in ERDC’s Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, was recently awarded the Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene Award for Innovation, under the Army's Greatest Innovation Awards Program. 

The award recognizes the technological contributions of Army Soldiers and civilians that greatly enhance Army readiness and Soldier performance.

The challenge was working with the Army Corps of Engineers mat system, ACE-Mat, a lightweight roadway matting system made of fiberglass panels, held together and in place with four-foot, aluminum screw-shaped anchors. The existing anchor head design caused a significant tire hazard for military vehicles and limited its utility. Harder's design change reduces the profile of the current anchor head by 80%, limits sharp edges and creates a lower profile that is proven far safer for wheeled and tracked traffic.

Harder said, "The ACE-Mat system has been developed over the years by a number of amazing engineers at ERDC. I'm proud to have helped contribute to the design and bring it one step closer to future fielding."

According to Harder, the previous design used a commercial off-the-shelf anchor, with a head designed for very different purposes. While it functionally provided the same strength to the ACE-Mat system, it left large alumni protrusions in the roadway which caused severe tire wear, and visually looked as if they could seriously damage a tire, making drivers wary of using them. Many different ideas were used over a one year period to minimize this effect, including covers for the screw heads and various different geometries. Harder’s new design, which is still only in prototyping and has not been fully tested, minimizes the profile and still provides a durable, simple installation for Soldiers. 

"The new anchor head design reduces tire wear and presents a more visually acceptable profile so as not to meet resistance from users who do not wish to damage their vehicles. The cost savings of the design are relatively minor, but the ACE-Mat system, in general, provides the ability to quickly build roads across poor soils," said Harder.

GSL Director Bartley P. Durst said, "Capt. Harder has made many important contributions to the ERDC's Military Engineering programs during his assignment to GSL, and we're very proud of his accomplishment. He constantly uses his knowledge of Army operations and applies his own innovative solutions to help to make the world safer and better."  

The Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene Award for Innovation recognizes creativity, originality, ingenuity, inspiration and inventiveness, attributes easily recognizable in Harder's solution for the ACE-Mat anchors. These qualities and attributes allow Harder and fellow ERDC researchers to discover, develop and deliver solutions to make the world safer and better.

ACE-Mat ERDC GSL Harder Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene Award for Innovation USACE