Talking security at West Point
Lt. Col. Fernando Maymi, assistant professor in the U.S. Military Academy's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, talks to college students about various projects cadets majoring in EECS work on Oct. 15 at West Point during the National Society for Black Engineers Fall Zone Conference. Maymi detailed a project from the computer science department published in the May 11, 2009, edition of the New York Times, where cadets were working on cyber security. Staff members from the National Security Agency helped with the project by hacking into computer systems while cadets attempted to block the invasion.

WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 19, 2011) -- Forty college students, including West Point cadets, from the New York metropolitan area majoring in engineering attended the West Point National Society of Black Engineers Fall Zone Conference Oct. 15.

The conference's theme was "The NSBE Blueprint: Teamwork, Leadership and Inspiration."

Brig. Gen. Timothy Trainor, Dean of the Academic Board, was the keynote speaker at the event who welcomed the students to the conference.

The purpose of the conference was to brainstorm ideas in all areas of engineering geared toward college students that included workshops on business ethics, the importance of attending graduate school and solving complicated math problems in teams, leadership and exploring the various engineering positions.

In one workshop, Brian Moretti, Ph.D., associate professor in physics and nuclear engineering, spoke to the attendees about what cadets majoring in nuclear engineering have done as capstone projects.

"The research cadets' work on here comes from the (Department of Defense)," Moretti said. "We go out to them to get ideas on what the Army needs. One such project cadets were developing was an integrated detection system that will detect the telltale signs of enriched uranium."

Natural uranium needs to be enriched before it can be made into a bomb. Enriched uranium may be carried by those who want to utilize a dirty bomb or a bomb containing conventional explosives along with radioactive components in liquid, solid or gas form with the aim of setting off an explosion and contaminating the area with radiation.

Another area of study by cadets was looking into the capability of detecting radiation in a tactical environment.

"The U.S. hasn't done any nuclear testing since the late-1950s, early '60s," Moretti said. "Most of the data we have on nuclear weapons is data collected from the explosion of large weapons. We don't know what the capabilities of smaller weapons are."

Other workshops centered on projects in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering and computer sciences.

Computer science may be of particular importance in the digital age because topics studied included developing systems that block hackers or can stop a hacker from entering a sensitive computer system, such as those used in the military.

"Cadets engage in a cyber war game competition every year at West Point," Lt. Col. Fernando Maymi, assistant professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, said. "Hackers from the National Security Agency try to infiltrate computers and the cadets try to stop them."

The NSBE is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the number of minority students studying engineering at the undergraduate and graduate level, promote public awareness of engineering and opportunities for blacks and other minorities in the engineering profession.

Page last updated Wed October 19th, 2011 at 00:00