By Brandon OConnorMay 9, 2019
With the United States fighting multiple wars throughout the world, it is nearly guaranteed that graduates of the U.S. Military Academy will be deployed into combat zones early on in their Army careers.
Prior to graduating from the academy and commissioning, cadets are working to make sure they, and their fellow Soldiers, are safer once they get there.
Cadets presented more than 400 projects May 2 during West Point's 20th annual Projects Day. The projects came in many shapes and sizes across every academic department at the academy, but the most popular theme throughout was preparing Soldiers for the future.
Multiple teams worked with drones and the different functionalities of them while others worked with power grids and safer systems for carrying rucksacks into the field to name but a few.
"We started out with a pretty vague problem of increasing the squad of the future's sensory (awareness) while maintaining their safety and keeping them behind cover and concealment," Class of 2019 Cadet John Kelly, who worked on the project Breach Boys, said. "At first, it was pretty daunting with the huge problem statement. Then, once we narrowed it down it was a lot more feasible."
The solution to the problem was to design a prototype for a hydraulic ram that will enable Soldiers to breach a five-inch by seven-inch hole in a wall to then deploy a drone through. The kit, which is designed to be carried disassembled by a few Soldiers, includes a deployment and retrieval system that fits through the small breach and then expands to allow the drone to take off or land.
"Currently, Soldiers operating in dense urban environments are exposing themselves to the enemy in order to deploy drones whether it be on rooftops, in windows or on the street," Kelly said. "What we set out to do is create a mechanical breaching system that would allow the Soldier to breach a wall from the inside of a building to deploy a drone."
This was the first year the project was undertaken, and Kelly said with one more iteration to make the system lighter and develop stronger anchors to more efficiently breach the wall it should be ready to send to the field to help Soldiers.
"Developing something that could ultimately save lives in the future is pretty exciting and an opportunity that I think is pretty unique to West Point," Kelly said. "Not only to have the resources and the capability to do that but being in the position where we could use it is pretty special and unique."
An interdisciplinary team, including cadets from academic departments throughout the academy, worked on the project entitled Raspberry Pi Android Security System, which is designed to create a network of cheap durable cameras that Soldiers can place to create a security perimeter. The project is in the second of at least three years required to get it fully operational, and this year's team was awarded the 2019 Scott Clark Award as the top cadet project.
"It is really an honor because of the amount of work we put in and how seriously we took it," Class of 2019 Cadet Cullen Johnson said of winning the award. "Our sponsor really stressed that our work would be affecting the livelihood of Soldiers out in the field and we kept that in mind. We are really happy to accept it on behalf of the people we are going to be able to help and last year's foundation they set up for us."
While many of the projects, especially in the STEM departments, focused on Soldier safety, it was far from the only topic being presented during Projects Day. Cadets in the English and Philosophy Department performed a Shakespearean play as their thesis. In the sociology department, projects included cadets looking at policies related to forest fires and marijuana.
In the math department, while some cadets chose to look at data associated with the NHL draft or modeling the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Class of 2019 Cadet Abby Jo Greco took a more conceptual approach by working on a pure math proof. Entitled "Counting Numerical Semigroups" her project was the next step in a proof of a conjecture first introduced in the 19th century.
"It is a good experience to describe to other people what I am doing, people who may not have an idea of what it is. I feel very accomplished to have gone these two semesters," Greco said of presenting her thesis. "I am in the process of writing an article for publication ... I plan on still looking into it to do the next thing that would need to happen for the problem as a whole, and if I don't someone else can step in and take over where I left off."
Projects Day was one of multiple events during West Point's inaugural Inspiration Week, which also included the unveiling of a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, inspiration to serve tours at the West Point Cemetery and the Special Olympics.