The University of British Columbia Okanagan is constructing a ballistics lab.
Bud Mortenson, Director of University Relations at UBCO, said they didn’t have space for the lab on campus, so they are leasing a space within a pre-existing building at Kelowna International Airport. The 2,500 square foot lab will cost about $500,000 to construct, and is part of the Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) initiative.
“The ballistics component of research that’s being done in the area of human survivability in harsher, hazardous environments really needed the ability to test high impact on materials,” Mortenson explained. “It might be a piece of body armour that’s used for soldiers in a conflict zone, it might be used for a vest on a dirt biker, so there are a lot of applications for it.”
Through STAR, UBCO is partnered with several other post-secondary institutes, including Imperial College London in England. Imperial College London has developed a material called Armourgel, which will be tested at the ballistics lab.
“It’s a flexible gel that when you hold it in your hand it feels a little bit like a rubber mat,” Mortenson described. “But when it’s struck with a lot of force it stiffens and spreads that force over a large surface, protecting whatever’s behind it. Imperial College has partnered with us, and we will be exploring how Armourgel can be used in things like helmets for athletes playing sports like hockey or football, perhaps even soccer, where the head takes a lot of trauma.”
Moving the lab off-campus is a direction Mortenson said the university wants to continue taking in the future. He explained they want to get in the habit of constructing facilities near the campus when they don’t have any space for it themselves, eventually creating a porous boundary between UBCO and the surrounding industrial community.
The ballistics lab is currently under construction within a pre-existing building in the airport commercial park, and construction is expected to be completed in September with research beginning shortly after once the required equipment is installed.