He shrugged it off as just another routine day in his lab, but testing conducted by Dr. Phil Gibson helped Burton Snowboards pick a fabric for uniforms that the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team will wear at next month's 2014 Winter Games.
"They just wanted me to test fabrics," said Gibson, supervisory physical scientist with the Molecular Sciences Engineering Team at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC. "I do lots of testing for companies, and (Burton is) just one of the companies that asked me to do some testing."
The results of that testing, done last year under a Testing Service Agreement between NSRDEC and the Burlington, Vt., company, were used by Burton to develop its new "DRYRIDE Vaporshell laminate" for the unique patchwork quilt competition jackets that will be worn by such Olympic riders as Shaun White and Kelly Clark in Sochi.
"We're really proud that the 2014 uniform builds on Burton's legacy of creating fun, unconventional designs that stray from the formal, traditional look of most uniforms," said Greg Dacyshyn, chief creative officer at Burton. "The vintage quilt and flag print of the jacket combined with the corduroy pants give the uniform an 'heirloom hippy' vibe that lines up with snowboarding's laid-back culture, while paying respect to America's longstanding creative heritage. It will stand out in Sochi for sure."
Dr. Jack Obusek, NSRDEC director, said that Testing Service Agreements provide "an important technology transfer vehicle that can help promote working with the commercial sector to find military solutions. This provides a great opportunity for us to collaborate with industry, including small businesses, in understanding and advancing the state of the art in our areas of expertise. Collaborations such as these provide us a great opportunity to engage based on our technical expertise with industry to find solutions for the Soldier."
Well into his third decade at NSRDEC, Gibson, a snowboarder himself, has considerable experience working with well-known outdoor clothing companies.
"This wasn't any different from the testing that I usually do," Gibson said. "The reason I do it is just sometimes I do see things that we would be interested in. So it's a way to kind of have a continuous survey of what the state of the art is. 'We're not endorsing,' he explained. "We're just providing information, and they decide how they want to use it."