Student Competitors Sought for Cool Design Challenge

Recently, students from universities across the country traveled to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) to participate in the first annual Field-Reversible Thermal Connector (RevCon) Challenge, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The RevCon Challenge asks undergraduate and graduate students to develop a novel design concept for a field-reversible, low-resistance thermal connector, which could be used in military electronic modules. The goal is to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and inspire future innovators to consider thermal management techniques and the key role they will play in tomorrow’s electronics.

Today, DARPA and ONR announce the second RevCon challenge. The program is managed by Avram Bar-Cohen, DARPA program manager and Mark Spector, ONR program officer. Student teams are invited to design a thermal connector with the chance to receive DARPA and ONR support for building their design and testing it at Johns Hopkins. Participants are asked to develop a novel field-reversible, low-resistance, thermal connector that could improve upon the presently available “wedgelocks.” Such thermal connectors are ubiquitous and critical components in high power, military electronic modules, where they serve to transfer heat from the edge of a printed circuit board to the water-cooled or air-cooled wall of the electronic module.

“This is a great opportunity for students looking for an idea for their fourth year design project,” said Bar-Cohen. “Participants will gain experience developing, assembling and demonstrating a potentially transformative technology. Finalists will have the unique opportunity to travel to Johns Hopkins for testing and to engage experts from DARPA, ONR and industry.”

During last year’s challenge, four teams from across the US were chosen to travel to JHU/APL to present their RevCons to a Government and industry panel and demonstrate their operation on an APL test rig. As results were displayed real-time on a large screen, the panel provided feedback to the students on their designs and shared their experiences and perspectives on the potential use of the student RevCons in actual military systems.

All four RevCons were evaluated with the JHU-APL test rig and all four exhibited better thermal resistances than the baseline commercial connector. The judges’ panel took special note of the diversity and creativity of the concepts implemented during the challenge. Prizes were awarded to the teams in the following categories:

Most Creative:
University of Missouri, Columbia: device based on magnetic force and ferrofluids University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: device based on linear actuators

Lowest Resistance:
Georgia Institute of Technology: device based on a copper plate with hydraulic fluid

Easiest to Implement:
University of California, Los Angeles: device based on a temperature-sensitive spring made of Ni-Ti compound

DARPA and ONR anticipate teams completing their designs during the fall semester, with final demonstrations occurring in the spring.

For more information, visit:;jsessionid=vmcJQGJGMnxxhtp0WXYnhNqZMvl5b3hT1LmHT8G58m1D2l7C5BTJ!487209127?oppId=184154&mode=VIEW

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