West Point cadets' academic capstone comes to fruition with Projects Day
Firstie Alex Mumford, of Rye, N.Y., welds two steel rods during the fabrication process of the Statue of Liberty capstone project April 16. In this project, eight cadets are working with the National Parks Service on how to transport an injured visitor down the spiral staircase to the pedestal where more conventional rescue equipment can be used.

On April 29, firsties and a handful of cows will showcase their capstone projects, which are the conclusion of a yearlong academic adventure.

With countless hours devoted outside the normal requirements of the typical cadet schedule, these students worked late nights and weekends to complete mind-boggling projects that on many levels are only done by graduate and, in some cases, doctoral level students at other universities.

Projects Day began in 2000 and involves majors from most of the academic departments, plus entries from five other universities. The students' efforts will be presented to 200 invited guests from the Department of the Army, more than 1,000 individuals from various companies and the general public over the course of the day.

"Projects Day has evolved into an amazing event across the academic program of the academy. From its humble beginnings in two engineering departments, as part of their wrapping up the end of the final semester, Projects Day has become the capstone of the academic year, with an entire day set aside in the academic calendar just to recognize and promote the outstanding work of cadets across the program," Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, Dean of the Academic Board, said. "Now, virtually every department participates in Projects Day-from great engineering and science projects to Shakespearean plays to briefings of foreign general officers in their native tongue-to showcase the incredible talent and dedication of our students and their faculty mentors."

With more than 250 projects to be displayed this year, three capstone projects have set themselves apart from the field and will be judged during the second annual Scott R. Clark Innovation for Soldiers Award.

The three finalists were selected on the criteria that their projects demonstrate an innovative approach to solving a problem of direct application to the Army.

The three are the Bionic Foot project-Civil and Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Target Location Module project-Electronic Engineering and Computer Science; and VA Claims Process Evaluation project-Systems Engineering.

Team Bionic Foot has Firsties Thomas Mangan, Elizabeth Betterbed, Kirsten Rauk, Robert Bucknam, Tiffany Taylor, Kevin McFerrin, Sangwook Han and William Schuh. They are being advised by Lt. Cols. Joe Hitt, Rob Wilson, Lisa Shay and James Merlo.

The Bionic Foot team designed, built and tested a below-the-knee active prosthesis to replicate the calf and foot movements of an 80-kilogram male American Soldier.

Two devices will be tested. One device will be used for walking over ground (outside) and another device will be used to support running. The running leg is the first of its kind.

The goal was to improve the Soldier's metabolic efficiency and produce a more symmetric and comfortable gait when compared to wearing a conventional, passive prosthesis.

Team Target Location Module was designed by Firsties John Eischer, Derek Wales and George Hopkins. They were advised by Lt. Cols. Greg Kilby and Bob McTasney and Wenli Huang, Ph.D.

The project goal is to design, test and build a low-cost, lightweight target location module which Soldiers can use to call for indirect or other suppressive fires.

By keeping the system cost an order of magnitude below the cost of currently available systems, such a system could be fielded to significantly lower levels and to smaller units.

At some point, it might be possible to issue a device to every Soldier. In the current fight, where small units are performing a variety of missions at sometimes remote and separate locations, the ability for all Soldiers to accurately call for fires or support will save lives.

The Veterans Affairs Claims Processing Capstone was developed by Firsties Kurt Bujewski, Matthew McClary, Joseph Van Dusen and Raymond Vetter.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently experiencing a backlog of more than 125,000 claims from military veterans seeking compensation for disabling medical conditions related to their military service. Claims are processed at 58 regional Veterans Benefits Administration offices throughout the United States.

On average, the time to complete an individual claim exceeds the processing standard by over 36 days, with a wait of more than five months before claimants receive their disability compensation. At a minimum, any recommended changes to the process must also maintain the current level of accuracy and consistency of the process.

To analyze the current VBA system, the team used the Systems Decision Process to develop a model and identify the client's requirements.

A discrete event simulation package, ProModel, was used to simulate the claims process and quantitatively evaluate how alternatives improved the overall system.

The simulation accurately models the Philadelphia Regional Office, which the cadets visited several times to conduct interviews, collect data and present results. They also met with the Under Secretary for Veterans Benefits Administration to understand the problem at a holistic level.

Using data from the Philadelphia Service Center, the team's simulation primarily focused on the Philadelphia Regional Office experiences. However, due to VBA's recent universal Claims Processing Initiative, national integration is feasible.

The project will be of great benefit to any servicemember or veteran that inputs a claim with Veterans Affairs.

While these are three of the featured projects of the day, there will be many more that have the ability to peak just about everyone's interest since many different subjects were researched.

"Projects Day also provides us with an opportunity to reach out to other college campuses and introduce those campuses to West Point. Increasingly students from other schools have been invited and chosen to participate in West Point's Projects," Finnegan said.

Page last updated Thu April 22nd, 2010 at 14:01