New museum exhibit includes WPI fire technologybam , Associated Press
Apr. 12, 2013 11:53 AM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Firefighting technology spearheaded by Worcester Polytechnic Institute is part of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
The exhibit, which opens Friday, is about the evolution of timekeeping and navigation technology.
WPI Professor John Orr says school researchers began working in 1999 on technology that could pinpoint the position of emergency responders inside large commercial buildings.
It's designed so an incident commander on the outside of a structure can use a computer to track firefighters inside a structure. The idea is to be able to guide firefighters out of the building safely or for rescuers to know exactly where to find a crew member who gets into trouble.
The technology efforts started after a Worcester blaze killed six firefighters who got lost inside a smoky structure. All were within 200 feet of an exit.
Experts are still developing the precision personnel locator technology for commercial use, but Worcester Deputy Fire Chief John Sullivan said city firefighters have helped test it.
A life-size likeness of Sullivan is part of the display, which also features a farmer and a student who use modern navigation tools.
Smithsonian officials said the new exhibit also has another Massachusetts connection. The first seagoing chronometer made in the United States is on display in the sea navigation section.
Boston clockmaker William Cranch Bond, then 23, created it during the War of 1812. The device determined longitude at sea.