13 June 2018
Smithsonian Military Invention Day Showcases Army Innovation
Christina Watson, USAMRMC Public Affairs

Capt. Maxwell Sirkin, co?inventor of the Sirkin?Hiles Rail System that turns a standard field litter into a mobile operating table, guides a young Smithsonian visitor through “surgery” using his innovative device to improve patient care. Sirkin and co?inventor Col. Jason Hiles (background) shared their invention with museum guests at the National Museum of American History for Military Invention Day on May 19 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Christina Watson, USAMRMC Public Affairs)
Enthusiastic voices filled the halls of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., on May 19, as visitors gathered for Military Invention Day, organized by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
“Take a right at the Batmobile, they have a system over there that uses fish to check the water!” exclaimed a high school student to his friend.
He was referring to the Intelligent Aquatic Biomonitoring System, invented by scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and presented by David Trader, research biologist at the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research. Trader spent the day engaging the public by displaying eight bluegill fish that are constantly monitored for changes in behavior that alerts scientists to the presence of potentially toxic substances in water.
“Bringing a visual interest item enables us to show the breadth of what USAMRMC does. It shows that we're not just bringing cutting edge technology to the point of injury or clinic or operating room table, but to the preventive medicine and protection mission as well,” said Trader.
However, one Army invention that will greatly enhance the care of Warfighters on the frontline is the Sirkin-Hiles Rail System, also known as the SHRAIL. The medical device is a lightweight rail system that mounts to a standard NATO litter to transform it into a highly functional operating table or intensive care unit bed – anytime, anywhere. The main purpose of the SHRAIL is to save lives in distant locations where transportation to a proper medical facility is either unavailable or unfavorable for survival.
The device was displayed throughout the day and presented on the main stage by its two Army surgeon inventors, Col. Jason Hiles and Capt. Maxwell Sirkin, in an interactive demonstration where visitors could try their hand at tying off “arteries” made of wire. The use of the SHRAIL made accessing the “thoracic cavity,” a box made of mops and wires from Home Depot dyed red by Sirkin, significantly easier allowing for quicker and more effective care.
While visitors got the opportunity to meet inventors, scientists and researchers from all military services, the chance to interact with members of the public was beneficial to the presenters as well.
“It was a wonderful day and we met a lot of great Americans! We purposefully were able to present our work and personally gained from the experience,” said Hiles.
“We all have a strong interest in first, making sure our Nation is a world leader in innovation, and second, ensuring that our Nation’s military continues to benefit from that competitive edge,” said Andrei Iancu, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and one of the keynote speakers for the event. He stressed the importance of military innovation and invention and its prominence throughout American history.
Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson also addressed the crowd and shared several integral technologies developed by the USAF that have majorly impacted civilian daily life, such as the global positioning system satellites that accurately show your location on your smartphone. She left the audience with a challenge, “Wilber and Orville Wright were bicycle mechanics; they were innovators. They didn’t think inside the lines. If you think you’re that kind of a person, if you are a tinkerer that wants to find the answer and do things better, think about joining us. We’re all a bunch of bicycle mechanics.”
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