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Student teams invited to compete in the RevCon Challenge

Simon Chen (left) and Steven Schafer install a thermal connector for thermal-vibrational testing.

Simon Chen (left), a research assistant professor, and Steven Schafer, an undergraduate researcher, in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, install a thermal connector for thermal-vibrational testing. This thermal connector is similar to the ones teams are tasked with designing.

As the Oct. 1 deadline looms for university teams to submit their letters of intent to compete in the 2015 International Field-Reversible Thermal Connector (RevCon) Challenge, the seven finalist teams from the 2014 Challenge prepare to submit final prototypes of the thermal connectors they’ve designed. On Oct. 31, the seven teams will demonstrate their connectors to judges at the University of Missouri College of Engineering, the hosting agency for both challenges. Mechanical Engineering Professor C. L. Chen and Associate Professor Gary Solbrekken are directing the Challenge efforts at MU.

The seven finalist universities that submitted prototype designs for the 2014 RevCon Challenge are Donghua University; National Tsing Hua University; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Maryland; University of Missouri; Mississippi State University; and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The RevCon Challenge is supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and is open to any college student design team interested in thermal connector innovation. The Challenge gives them the opportunity to propose, develop and evaluate novel design concepts. Student teams must consist of at least two students, plus faculty mentors (no limitation). Advanced graduate students, post-doctoral researchers are acceptable mentors.

DARPA supports this challenge in anticipation of designs that can 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.

“DARPA investment helped develop very high conductive interface materials and heat spreaders but to fully realize those benefits reliable low thermal resistance thermal connectors are warranted to transfer heat efficiently to ensure superior thermal performance,” said Kaiser Matin, a technical adviser at DARPA’s Microsystem’s Technology Office of the Challenge’s objective. “Moreover, the thermal connector must be capable of rapid assembly/disassembly operation while maintaining high thermal conduction after many cycles.”

Each selected team builds its own test bed to put the thermal connector they’ve designed through its paces according to the specification requirements disclosed during the execution time of the project.