NATICK, Mass. -- With an eye on the future, collaboration and innovation were on full display at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point's and the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center's (CCDC SC) Projects Day, which was held in CCDC SC's Grant Conference Center on April 30.

The CCDC SC-hosted event featured capstone presentations by USMA cadets, who were mentored by CCDC SC scientists and engineers. Scientists and engineers from the CCDC Army Research Laboratory and USARIEM served as mentors on some projects as well.

The capstone projects showcased the research performed by the cadets, including innovative problem-solving approaches to real-word problems, as well as lessons learned.

At the beginning of the event, Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone -- deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command and the senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center -- noted that "collaboration" was the word summed up the spirit of the day.

Malone said that CCDC SC and USMA West Point share complementary research goals and pointed out that the partnership benefits not only the two organizations, but also the Army as a whole.

CCDC SC is dedicated to using science and technology to ensure America's warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. Although CCDC SC supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams are the CCDC SC's chief areas of focus. The center's science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance.

Douglas Tamilio, director, CCDC SC, emphasized the importance of the partnership, stating that CCDC SC benefits from the fresh perspectives that the cadets bring to the organization and that the cadets benefit from working with CCDC SC scientists and engineers.

Projects Day is part of a larger, ongoing collaborative effort between CCDC SC and USMA. The effort was formalized in 2014 under a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU. Both organizations have a shared interest in researching and developing innovative technologies for the Soldier.

Through the partnership, CCDC SC subject matter experts provide expertise and guidance to USMA cadet teams. The projects provide cadets with all-important opportunities to work on real-world problems, while the cadets energize research efforts with new approaches and creative ways of thinking.

The relationship enables joint research projects and the sharing of training sites, research staff, historical data, field equipment and facilities. Henry Girolamo, formerly of CCDC SC (which was previously called the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center), developed and implemented the collaboration.

Elizabeth McCoy, who works in CCDC SC's Office of the Chief Scientist in a technical advisory role, now serves as the liaison coordinator with USMA. USMA and CCDC SC Projects Day is a joint effort organized by McCoy and USMA's leads, Lt. Col. James Bluman, director, Center for Innovation and Engineering, USMA at West Point, and Dr. Rebecca Zifchock, department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, USMA at West Point.

This year's capstone projects investigated a myriad of potential technologies and innovations. Topics ranged from strategic military deception; improvements to on-the-move, command post capabilities; energy efficient ways to maintain air quality and thermal comfort; airborne delivery of unmanned airborne vehicles; and backpacks that improve comfort and evaluate the physiological and metabolic cost associated with load carriage -- to name just a few of the ideas presented by cadets.

Melvin Jee, is a branch chief in the Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, led by Claudia Quigley, at the CCDC SC. Jee is one of the dedicated mentors to West Point cadets.

"Working with the cadets, although for our benefit, greatly benefits them in that they are given a clean slate from which to work, and to make and learn from their own mistakes," said Jee. "It not only gives fresh eyes to a problem and gives them something to work on that we may not have the bandwidth to pursue, but it also teaches them how to work through a problem and come up with a solution which meets most, if not all, of our needs."

Megan Jarrell, an USMA cadet whose team was mentored by Jee, said that she really enjoyed working as a part of a team and that her team greatly benefited from Jee's advice and technical knowledge.

"It's so important to gain experience outside of the classroom," said Blake Wilson, an USMA cadet who also worked with Jee.

Lt. Col. James Bluman, director, Center for Innovation and Engineering, USMA, said that the capstone projects are much more than an academic exercise since they provide cadets with the invaluable opportunity to work on real-world problems that represent capability gaps for a real-world customer.

Bluman added that the type of mentoring and technical expertise that Natick is providing cadets is not something they can get anywhere else. He gave a special thanks to McCoy as well as to Dr. Charlene Mello, CCDC SC's chief scientist.

In her closing remarks, Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb, dean of the Academic Board, USMA, stressed the importance of the cadets having the chance to work on real-world problems. She said that collaboration and interdisciplinary thought are key to preparing for the future.