ARL researchers evaluate Soldier performance to help produce better products for the service member

October 09, 2014

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • ARL researchers demonstrate the benefits of human system integration-focused analysis for their programs
  • ARL's human factors technical support allows the force modernization proponent the ability to define and quantify human system integration issues
  • HSI can improve the integrated Soldier-system performance and reduce development and operating costs

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate's Fort Leonard Wood field element was recently involved in the completion of a live-fire experiment with the modular protective system multipurpose guard tower on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Collaborating with Maneuver Support Battle Lab engineers, the ARL team developed a 'focused assessment program' for base defense system capabilities. They worked with the capability developers and analyzed the 'proposed capabilities of these systems' and the 'relevant capability development documents' that were being developed.

"We identified important study issues that could influence the development of these requirements documents and leveraged planned events to conduct our focused experimentation. During the experiment, I collected data on the biomechanical and physiological requirements for Soldiers to manually construct a modular protective tower system and identified opportunities to reduce injury and fatigue," said Andrew Bodenhamer, human systems integration engineer, HRED Fort Leonard Wood field element.

"Additionally we sought to quantify the capabilities of Soldiers to successfully engage targets with a crew-served weapon from a modular tower system, despite not having a qualification standard for using weapons from towers and using prototypes that had never had weapons fired from them before. We were able to successfully evaluate the Soldier performance as a function of system design attributes, in terms that can be used to develop formal system requirements to produce a better final product for the Soldier."

Bodenhamer explains how ARL became involved in the recent experiment.

"Our field element at Fort Leonard Wood directly supports the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, who is the Army's capability developer for Engineer, Military Police, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear defense, or CBRN, acquisition programs. The Maneuver Support Battle Lab is a part of MSCoE that focuses on using live and simulation-based experimentation in the support of capability development. In the past, we have supported a limited number of MSBL's experiment projects in a consulting role for collecting human system integration data."

ARL's involvement has expanded the past couple of years.

"Since October 2012, I have been fully integrated as a project analyst for the design and execution for many of their prototype experimentation projects. This partnership allowed MSBL and ARL to collaborate on ways to better evaluate human performance data during experimentation," said Bodenhamer. "It also allowed our researchers to work closely with MSCoE capability development teams to demonstrate the benefits of human system integration-focused analysis for their programs."

Bodenhamer said that in the past two years he and his team have helped conduct several experiments with a wide range of applications such as: universal robotic controllers, stand-off personnel-borne threat detection and improved concealable body armor.

Chad Morris, project officer and general engineer with the MSCoE Capability Development and Integration Directorate Battle Lab, at Fort Leonard Wood is pleased with the support they receive from ARL.

"Having technical support from ARL HRED for human factors issues during our live operational experiments has been invaluable. This allows the force modernization proponent the ability to define and quantify MANPRINT issues using developing prototypes that have capabilities within their specific areas," said Morris. "This structured learning environment, where Soldiers are providing usability input into the developing system, ultimately helps formulate well-defined MANPRINT requirements within the joint capabilities integration and development system process."

Bodenhamer believes that human system integration early in project development provides huge benefits to both the developers and Soldiers.

"Researchers and analysts from HRED can provide an important role in solving the puzzle of finding ways to provide objective analysis for human performance attributes that can form a foundation for a capability developer's decisions. By the time that many programs feel a 'need' to address usability, many of the design requirements are fixed and are difficult or expensive to modify," said Bodenhamer. "By having human system integration as an active focus throughout the entire system lifecycle, it can improve the integrated Soldier-system performance and reduce development and operating costs. We have a growing list of HSI issues related to base defense programs that we are working with capability developers to answer through future analysis and experimentation."

Bodenhamer finds his work rewarding.

"Having the opportunity to provide a collaborative learning environment where Soldiers can use their user expertise to directly and positively influence the development of systems that they and their peers may be using in the future is very rewarding," said Bodenhamer. "I look forward to anytime I can get out of the office and get 'hands-on' a system alongside Soldiers on a range. We conduct a wide breadth of human systems integration focused research and analysis that directly influences the current and near term technology acquisition for the Army."


Last Update / Reviewed: October 9, 2014