In spite of all of the challenges of 2020, it was a great year for cadets and faculty who pursued the opportunity to present their research and capstone projects at the peer-reviewed International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in November.
A total of 16 cadets, second lieutenants from the Class of 2020 and faculty from the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering presented their work in 13 different sessions.
The projects represent a diversity of projects across the civil and mechanical engineering portfolio — from robotic swarms to high fidelity fluid dynamics experiments to ballistics and the dynamics of bullet impacts, a wide range of papers were presented.
Furthermore, Class of 2022 Cadet Ty Homan competed as a finalist for the American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s Young Engineer’s award, earning second place in the competition — a notable achievement as he competed against exclusively graduate mechanical engineering students. Homan studied how contaminants such as chemical agents disperse in the atmosphere in urban terrain. His work is sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
Other projects that were reviewed included:
• Class of 2023 Cadet Steve Andreen, advised by Maj. Brad Davis, presented his research on evaluating the risk to users of Live Fire Shoot Houses constructed from abrasion resistant steel panels.
Andreen gathered data on how bullet impacts are distributed on the facility during training and how each impact changes the steel. Using failure testing from Aberdeen Proving Ground, he then wrote a computer simulation that estimates the number of impacts it takes to cause a single steel panel to fail and used Monte Carlo simulation techniques to estimate the probability that a facility would fail over time.
Andreen plans to continue this work in the Spring and improve his model with additional physical experiments and Bayesian statistics techniques.
• Class of 2023 Cadet James Bieler, who is advised by Maj. Brad Davis, presented his research on modeling the behavior of cellular rubber used to contain spall and fragmentation that is generated during the use of Live Fire Shoot House Facilities.
Bieler compared three potential material models that account for the unique pore structure of the rubber and discussed the benefits of each. He also presented his preliminary experimental results and discussed the additional materials testing required to complete and validate the models.
• Class of 2023 Cadet Jared Dequenne, who is advised by Maj. Brad Davis, presented his research on modeling the behavior of cellular concrete used in Live Fire Shoot House facilities to contain projectiles and fragmentation. Using material data collected from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center and Sandia National Laboratory, Dequenne developed and validated a Holmquist-Johnson-Cook material model that can be used to assess the safety of existing live fire structures against new projectiles, or design new facilities.
His work is being continued by another team of cadets this fall, who are using his material model in their series of experiments at the Tronsrue Indoor Marksmanship Center.
• Class of 2023 Cadet Ruby Romsland, who is advised by Dr. Ken McDonald, presented her work on investigating the corrosion of a Navy Mk50 CROWS (Common Remotely Operated Weapons System) station friction brake.
Using elemental analysis and electrochemical polarization measurements, Romsland was able to determine there was a compositional and galvanic mismatch between components of the friction brake system that caused the corrosion to occur. From there, Romsland was able to materials engineer a solution to remove the galvanic mismatch and prevent further corrosion of the friction brake system.
• Class of 2021 Cadet Nathan Batta, who is advised by Daniel Doscher, presented his research on Model Predictive Control (MPC) for a novel ‘multi-mode’ suspension design. This design allows vehicles to absorb high frequency disturbances (as addressed by traditional vehicle suspensions) as well as low frequency disturbances such as the profile of a hill or ‘mogul-like’ terrain.
The objective of this research was to determine the benefits that MPC with preview information could bring to the multi-mode concept subjected to a variety of 2D road profiles.
Developing a half car model to represent the multi-mode suspension, Batta was able to apply the MPC algorithm and determine that the driver absorbed power could be reduced by more than 90% for step, sinusoidal, multimode and random road disturbances.
• Second Lt. Daniel Chung, USMA Class of 2020, and Col. Mike Benson presented their capstone work in a symposium on Wind Turbine Aerodynamics and Environment Flows. Chung pre-recorded the presentation while at the Engineer Basic Officer Course in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, while Benson handled the live question and answer period.
The capstone team effort was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and involved scaled testing of a pulsatile contaminant released in downtown Oklahoma City as it was in 2003, when a series of large-scale field tests were conducted. The project was so successful that DTRA has invested in a follow-on study challenging three organizations to improve their atmospheric simulation models to match the experimental results in AY 21.
• Rahul Verma worked with 2nd Lts. George Horiates and Nick Kanellis. As cadets, Horiates and Kanellis took on the challenging problem of determining the cause of significant vibrations in the waste conveyance system at Holston Army Ammunition Plant, located in Kingsport, Tennessee.
Verma was the faculty advisor for this capstone project. This effort required a site visit to collect operating data, review existing engineering plans and specifications, and understand how the water conveyance system worked. The piping configuration was complicated — a “spaghetti bowl” of pipes that been constructed over several decades to keep the system operational. Horiates and Kanellis developed MathCAD and AFT Arrow models of the conveyance system, and calibrated the models using the limited operational data that was available. Through careful analysis and literature reviews, they determined the most likely cause is water hammer, and presented a solution to eliminate this issue.
• The West Point Radiation Assessment and Tracking Hive (WRATH) team developed a modular, autonomous, rapidly deployable and multifunctional unmanned aircraft system (UAS) swarm for use in nuclear radiation fallout zones.
The multidisciplinary team spanning five majors from four departments designed, built and tested a swarm that autonomously maps radiation fallout, pinpoints potential sources and scans for pathway hazards in a hot zone.
Second Lt. Michael Renard, USMA Class of 2020, presented on behalf of the entire WRATH team.
• Second Lt. Chris Forden, USMA Class of 2020, and Lt. Col. Andy Bellocchio presented work on an anti-torque device to arrest the spin of a suspended litter during air ambulance rescue hoist operations. Interaction between the hoisting litter and the helicopter’s rotor wash can destabilize the suspended load and risk injury to the patient and aircrew.
The device accelerates a fly wheel to generate sufficient angular momentum that counteracts a litter’s spin. The research was developed under the support of the U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).
• Lt. Col. Jamie Bluman presented a paper on behalf of his 2020 capstone team — 2nd Lts. Davonte Cater-Vault, Wei-Kang Soon, Ruth Talbott and Jonathan Willis. The team designed a novel device to release fixed wing drones from the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS). The team developed a novel wing-folding mechanism and integrated it onto an existing small UAS, the Zohd Nano Talon.
They built four drones and a dispenser system that carries the drones under the JPADS canopy and releases them on command. The project was sponsored by CCDC Soldier Center in Natick, Massachusetts.
• Lt. Col. Margaret Nowicki presented her 2020 Capstone teams work on additive manufacturing of ceramic slurries in support of physics for Soldier protection to defeat evolving threats.
Her team was comprised of 2nd Lts. Andrew LaFlam, Kjetil Klein and Logan Smith. The team modified an off the shelf extrusion printer to accept ceramic slurries as feeder material instead of plastic filament.
The team also designed a series of mixing augers to combine different slurries and created a simulation to predict which auger geometry would create the greatest mixedness of combined slurry.
The project was sponsored by CCDC Army Research Lab in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The cadets and second lieutenants who presented their work said that this opportunity was a great professional development experience.
“Presenting my work at IMECE was a great opportunity to develop professional skills and interact with members of the broader technical community,” Homan said.
Renard stated that, “IMECE was a meaningful opportunity to present the hard work of our (Drone Swarm) capstone team to an international audience.”
“This was a record year for USMA at IMECE — we have never had this many cadets, recent graduates and faculty present their work from our program in a single conference,” Benson, West Point Mechanical Engineering Division Director, said. “It represents a tremendous effort by everyone involved. Ty Homan’s selection as runner-up in the International Young Engineer Paper competition demonstrates the excellence of the USMA cohort. Hopefully, we will be able to attend in person next year, as the virtual conference experience pales in comparison for development and network opportunity with the live event.”