NATICK, Mass. – Researchers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or DEVCOM SC, are getting a head start with a data collection effort that will ultimately benefit female Soldiers.
In a large-scale data collection effort, DEVCOM SC researchers are taking precise scalp measurements of a large sampling of female participants to develop a database. The database will help increase knowledge of the female scalp and will allow for the development of a family of models of the female scalp surface via 3D scanning and digitization. This knowledge will be incorporated into the design of helmets and other head-borne equipment for female Warfighters.
DEVCOM SC is a longtime leading expert in anthropometric data and in designing clothing and equipment that protect Soldiers while enabling, rather than hindering, Soldier tasks. In recent years, DEVCOM SC has increased efforts to develop items specifically for females.
Hyegjoo Choi-Rokas, Ph.D., an engineering psychologist on DEVCOM SC’s Soldier Effectiveness Directorate’s Applied Ergonomics Team, is leading the data collection of the female head shape study. The study is part of larger program to develop the design guidance of a multi-threat head-borne system led by Dr. Todd Garlie.
Female heads differ from male heads not only in size but also shape. Females are also allowed to have substantially more hair than their male counterparts, creating difficulties in understanding the shape of the skull under that hair. Thus, there is a need to develop female-centric equipment to ensure proper fit to optimize Soldier performance, protection and safety, taking both the scalp and the impact of the hair into account.
“This study is designed to capture the female head scalp shape under the hair using 3D scanning technology,” said Choi-Rokas. “The goal of this study is to summarize the female head scalp shape to aid in the development of a family of female 3D head/face models that are representative of U.S. Army female Soldiers. Data from this study will provide the design basis for future head and neck personal protective equipment.”
The resulting family of female head models will be used as a design basis for future head and neck clothing and individual equipment, or CIE, and personal protective equipment, or PPE, including helmets, maxillofacial protection, and eyewear. The effort’s focus on female-centric data is important given that the role of female Soldiers is continually expanding. Females currently make up about 16 percent of the total Army population.
“When it comes to PPE accommodation, there is a critical need to better understand female anthropometry and the fit of CIE/PPE on female Soldiers,” said Choi-Rokas. “Anthropometric characteristics – body size and shape – of male and female Soldiers are very different.”
DEVCOM SC’s work to increase female anthropometric knowledge is greatly needed given that Army legacy systems were primarily designed based on male Soldiers’ anthropometry and because, until recently, combat and other roles were not open to female Soldiers.
DEVCOM SC’s expertise in anthropometric data make it a perfect fit for this project. DEVCOM SC’s 2012 Army-wide Anthropometric Survey, or ANSUR II, is one of the world's largest and most comprehensive anthropometric surveys. In addition to products for the military, the effective design and optimization of a wide array of products – including vehicles, airplane cockpits, workstations, protective clothing, helmets, and backpacks – all require the precise body measurements, body shape, and understanding of movement that is included in anthropometric data.
The Solder Center’s female scalp shape study is also specifically benefitting from the 3D anthropometry expertise of Peng Li, Ph.D, a computer scientist on the Applied Ergonomics Team in DEVCOM SC’s Soldier Effectiveness Directorate. Li developed the methodology using a 4D (3D in motion) system for capturing the scalp shape. The study also benefits from the expertise of Asbed Tashjian, a general engineer on DEVCOM SC’s Soldier Protection Directorate’s Protective Technology Development Team, who co-developed the probe helmet that aids anthropometric research, as well as the CAD model of helmet and probes with Li.
The data collection effort is also benefitting from DEVCOM SC’s Soldier Sustainment Directorate’s 3D-printing expertise.
“DEVCOM SC’s 3D printing capabilities helped to advance the data collection procedure,” said Choi-Rokas. “With the help of DEVCOM SC’s Matt Hurley, we were able to get the 3D-printed helmet and 54 probes very quickly. Thanks to this 3D-printed ‘probe helmet’ device, we can collect similar data within a few seconds using our new 4D scanning system. Data from one person can now be completed within 30 minutes instead of 1 to 1.5 hours.”
The female scalp study will aid in the design of equipment.
“This study will develop and deliver a family of female 3D head/face models,” said Choi-Rokas. “When it comes to accommodation and fitting, it is more efficient to see it virtually on the 3D models to confirm the design. It will still be critical to perform field evaluations with real Soldiers whenever new equipment is designed and to go through an iterative process to confirm and improve the fit of such a system. However, virtual design and fitting can effectively and efficiently reduce the number of steps in this iterative process.”
The final deliverables from the study will also include a female average shape 3D head model that can be used by designers inside and outside of DoD to design protective eyewear and other PPE items for the face and head. Currently, there is only a male average shape 3D head model.
The study will help with Soldier performance and safety.
“Providing properly fitting PPE and CIE can improve performance and safety,” said Choi-Rokas. “If Soldiers are wearing equipment that does not fit properly this can lead to an increased risk of injury and degraded performance. The outcome of this study, a family of female 3D head and face models, will help develop better fitting head and neck PPE. At the end of the day, it’s all about providing improved capabilities for our Soldiers.”
Choi-Rokas is proud to do work that benefits the Warfighter. She is especially proud to work on equipment that protects and supports our troops.
“I feel that I am fulfilling my duty as a U.S. citizen by working on protective equipment for our troops who sacrifice their lives for this country,” said Choi-Rokas. “My parents in Korea are also very proud of me – especially my dad. He experienced and suffered during the Korean War, and he still deeply appreciates all the support from the U.S. He thinks his daughter is finally paying back the debt to the U.S. by working for the U.S. military.”
(POC for female head shape study: Dr. Hyegjoo “Joo” Choi-Rokas at Hyegjoo.firstname.lastname@example.org or 508.206.3925.)
About DEVCOM Soldier Center: The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’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. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers are also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.