|Recap: 2013 Projects Day
Story and photos by Mike Strasser
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 9, 2013) — If there is one thing I’ve learned from Projects Day is that there is no possible way for one person to see it in its entirety.
Likewise, it is impossible for a reporter to cover all of Projects Day and grasp this massive, all-encompassing display of the academy’s intellectual output. No way. This is what I saw...
And so there I was. A little before 8 a.m. I made my way to the West Point Club just ahead of a group of cadets wheeling their project on a cart. I wanted to beat the crowd that would soon gather inside the ballroom. The first thing I saw was the area set up for the finals of the West Point Bridge Design Contest. It’s only been an added feature to Projects Day for a couple of years but the contest itself has, for several years now, challenged teams of students across the nation to design the most cost-effective yet sturdy virtual bridge. This year’s winners were two high schoolers from West Virginia. The results are posted on this website and I think you can still download the free software at http://bridgecontest.usma.edu/index.htm.
After that I got a peek at some of the projects inside the ballroom. First, a little CAVIAR.
Cadets Janelle Runion and Rachel Pauley present CAVIAR, an autonomous system to allow seeing-impaired Soldiers a way to enjoy recreational or competitive rowing on their own with the aid of technology. CAVIAR is the Course Assistant for Visually Impaired Army Rowers, an autonomous system to provide navigation and guidance to a rower inside a single person crew shell.
The team of Cadets Janelle Runion, Rachel Pauley, Christian Grado and Vincent Schuele conceptualized this lightweight, waterproof system as a way to provide impaired wounded warriors with rowing as a form of exercise and rehabilitation.
The prototype they proposed uses a Google Nexus 7 tablet as the central processing unit capable of controlling a GPS, accelerometer and radar subsystems.
AVARS: This project’s intent is to enable individual robots within a swarm to detect vulnerability while providing continous network coverage to mobile clients in a tactical environment through the use of an application on an Android device.
One day the Terminators will walk freely It happens every year at Projects Day when, even after detailed explanation, I still don’t understand the project. AVARS was kind of like that. It’s the Android-controlled Vulnerable Aware Robot Swarm designed by the team of Cadets Sean Coffey, Nolan Miles, Stephen Rogacki and Isaiah Salsman.
The project’s intent is to enable individual robots within a swarm to detect vulnerability while providing continuous network coverage to mobile clients in a tactical environment through the use of an application on an Android device. But what does that mean?
“The basic idea is that as robotics is increasingly being used on the battlefield commanders have a lot of overhead when using them because it requires a lot of manpower,” Salsman said. “Once you have autonomous robots they’ll be able to move around on the battlespace and that happens on a network. If the network is stretched too far there’s the potential of breaking that link between the robots. So our project is focused on identifying the vulnerability where if they’re stretched too far then the network is broken. Eventually in future iterations of this project they’ll work on correcting and mitigating that vulnerability.”
From there, Salsman explained some of the challenges they faced during this project while I nodded my head in false acknowledgment of said explanation. However I did get the military applications of their work. Imagine the possibilities when a mobile network can be created capable of real time analysis of a robot swarm. We’re talking search-and-rescue operations, clear-and-search missions and robot swarm patrols along a predetermined route. The code and some of the research was already available, but Salsman learned that it didn’t make their own work any easier.
“We completely scrapped a bunch of code and had to restart a bunch of times,” Salsman said. “Sometimes it is more efficient to start from nothing and then try later to integrate it all together…pull some stuff from previous projects to create a final product.”
The origin of the team derived from Salsman and Rogacki having worked previously together on another Android-based project and pulled Coffey and Miles—who Salsman described as the algorithm genius type—into the mix.
“As the team leader I’m happy with the results, but I would have liked to accomplish a bit more but we simply ran out of time and ran into a few complications,” Salsman said. “We started out quite ambitious and had to step back into something more realistic, but I can’t complain about the progress we made.”
Check out a demo at www.facebook.com/androidswarm, or the direct YouTube link at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-fkb4yNQqI&feature=youtu.be, courtesy of Cadet Rogacki.
There were other projects I really wanted to cover at the West Point Club but the room was filling up and it was time to move on to the next locale. On the way out I took a look at LOST, the Land Navigation and Orienteering Soldier Tracker, and hoped if I could return I would see the Laser Light Show in action, but I never did. Next stop was Thayer Hall where I would make return trips up and down a couple floors to see as many of the poster presentations as possible.
Cadets Larraine Saavedra and Nicki Warner wanted to know if an outer vestibule design would increase hygiene, comfort and efficiency in the SIP-Hut used by deployed Soldiers.
Building a Better Hut Deployed Soldiers often make do with whatever living space is afforded to them. Often times it becomes cramped units with little space to store gear which leads to health and morale issues.
Cadets Larraine Saavedra and Nicki Warner wanted to know if they could design an outer vestibule for the SIP-Hut (Structural Insulated Panel) used by deployed Soldiers that could increase hygiene, comfort and efficiency. Their research demonstrated that such a design would provide desired space between the outdoors and living quarters, and individual lockers with gated doors would keep living quarters cleaner and secure.
Although security, privacy and organization within the living space for eight Soldiers were paramount the cadets also considered the capability of removing a wall to allow for a common area. Their work was related to human factors, Warner explained, while others worked on the civil, mechanical and electrical engineering components of the project.
The SIP-Hut project began in 2012 as multi-disciplinary team, composed of six teams representing five academic majors. Learn more about the 2012 project here.
Cadet Seth Harbol holds court inside the Science Center laboratory with a group of visiting students.
I wanted to get to Washington Hall and visit the Simulation Center, always a favorite of mine, but first I went to the Science Center laboratories at Bartlett Hall where I saw Cadet Seth Harbol in front of a group of visiting students. He was explaining the project entitled “Examining the Use of SPME Fibers in the Detection of Ammonium Nitrate Based Explosives. He worked with Cadet Katherine Collins on this.
I saw Cadet Dan Prior brief an officer about his project with Cadet Sean Fitzgerald on the design and optimization of a self-contained, portable, waste-to-energy gasification system. The team used a design from the State University of New York at Cobblestone’s College of Agriculture and Technology.
Do certain fish hold the secret to a better way for the Army to camouflage its Soldiers. Maybe, and Cadet Jonathan Kaichers spent a few weeks at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., studying cephalopods.
Where did that fish go?
On the other side of the laboratory I met Cadet Jonathan Kaicher who was sponsored by the Army Research Office to analyze the adaptive camouflage techniques of cuttlefish. He explained the origin of this project.
“I walked into my research mentor’s office and he asked me what I wanted to do this summer,” Kaicher said. “He gave me a bunch of ideas and I said, ‘Sir, I love marine biology. Is there any way I can do something with that?’”
That led him to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., where he spent three weeks getting a grip on the squirmy fish that have a tendency of squirting ink or water on researchers.
“To take a hyperspectral image it actually takes about 30 seconds and these fish don’t sit still,” Kaicher said. “If they move then the image is completely ruined so you have to get them to stay still for 30 seconds. I think there’s an art behind the water temperature and scaring them enough to where they don’t move.”
The conclusions drawn at the Marine Resource Center showed that cuttlefish have the ability to match spectrally to the environment it’s in, though not strictly. Evidence shows that the cephalopods pull from the environment to blend in.
“It not only mimics the colors of a background but the 3-D, I guess, of its background. It has these little papillae that will protrude from its skin in certain ways to match whether it’s in seaweed or algae or a rock formation. It will match in three-dimensions and colors and blend in such a way that you lose the edges of the fish,” Kaicher said.
Kaicher, a Life Sciences major, said that further data analysis may lead to advantages in the design of Army camouflage technology.
“I learned a lot about the cephalopods and how they camouflage themselves to their environment,” Kaicher said. “Camouflage is not about putting green on green, it’s mimicking the natural colors in the environment and that’s what we were looking at. So the question was can we apply that ability to match that reflectance to Army uniforms?”
Those who attended Projects Day May 2 got a look at the pelletron accelerator and learned from the cadets and team adviser on the experiment they conducted to validate its operation.
Enter the Pelletron Before leaving Bartlett Hall, I noticed a Projects Day sign directing people to visit the Pelletron. What is that, I thought, an Autobot or a Decepticon? Even better.
In March 2012 the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering installed the academy’s first pelletron accelerator. It has the capability of speeding up all sorts of particles like electrons, positrons and ions for applications in nuclear physics research.
Cadet Derek West was part of the team, including Cadets Eliot Bieletto and Kurt Yeager and advisor Lt. Col Kenneth Allen, to run the Rutherford Backscattering Experiment. This was the first experiment which validated the proper operation of the pelletron and its standard operating procedure.
“This experiment is an interaction of alpha particles on gold foil,” West said. “Almost a century ago there was a lot of debate on what the diagram of an atom was like and there were a couple of different models.”
What Earnest Rutherford discovered was that an atom was more than just empty space and had a positively charged center, or what he called “nucleus,” which presented a truer depiction of an atom’s structure.
“The overall purpose here was to establish some best practice procedures that we can possibly use for the lab in the advanced physics class,” West said. “But this detector also has purpose in what is called ion beam analysis where they can hit some material with alpha particles and it can also fire protons as well. Then you can see how that the material reacts when it is saturated with these charged particles.”
West, a Class of 2014 cadet and physics major, still has another year left at the academy and looks forward to the next experiment with the pelletron.
“I’ll probably do some research over the summer when I have time on some interactive experimentation I’d like to do,” West said. “I will almost certainly be back down here next year.” Improving Soldier morale with a cool drink of water was the premise of the Solar Powered Thermoelectric Water Cooler. The team of Cadets Ryan Frykman, Patrick Heeter, Joshua Karper and Brett Krueger incorporated green technology to build a mobile hydration system capable of supporting a platoon with an 80-gallon tank of cold water in the field.At the Water CoolerThe goal was simple: Find a cheap, portable and easy way to provide cold water to troops using green technology. Cadets Ryan Frykman, Patrick Heeter, Joshua Karper and Brett Krueger designed and built a solar-powered thermoelectric water cooler that could be deployed with a platoon for simple assembly and operation in the field.
"The solar panels and thermo-electric cooler causes no real carbon emissions directly, it's small, portable and easy to set up and tear down," Karper said. "No impact on the environment."
The team demonstrated a bench-scale model inside Thayer Hall with a two-gallon tank and three solar panels. The actual design would be an 80-gallon tank model that would service about 100 Soldiers. “We also want to use a canopy which would also provide shade for Soldiers for a little passive cooling to go with the active cooling of the actual cooler,” Karper said. “We believe with these coolers we could maximize Soldier performance levels because when you’re out in the field some cool water can be a morale-booster.”At the same time, he said, the cooler is low maintenance. A typical water buffalo requires more chlorine to purify water at higher temperatures. “If we could decrease the cooler size and maintain a constant temperature that’s less chlorine in the water,” Karper said, “which means less cost and it will taste better.”
Cadet Mark Brake, the deputy project manager, explains some of the missions on the map of a fictional country which was used in Project Prometheus at the West Point Simulation Center May 2.
"If we do not capture the imagination and energy of this generation of leaders and get them invigorated at the concept of training ... we are going to have some significant degradation to our force."
—Gen. Robert Cone, TRADOC commanding general
Creating a virtual battle for troop trainingAlthough the U.S. Military Academy has been training its cadets, and the Army its Soldiers,with the Virtual Battle Space since it made its debut in 2009 skepticism abounds on the value of taking troops out of field training. Can a squad effectively conduct a training mission using a computer program? Cadet Mark Brake admittedly approached the VBS2 project with doubts, even as deputy project manager, but soon appreciated what virtual training offers.
The Virtual Battlespace 2 is an immersive, first-person training simulation that can be configured for any number of scenarios and missions—tactical foot patrols, convoys and even civil-military operations.
"I was very skeptical at first," Brake said. "As engineering psychology majors we talk about simulations all the time in class and I always thought it was dumb. If you want to train then go out in the field and train. Go out in the woods or go on the range and shoot stuff. I was a major cynic."
Once Brake did his homework on VBS2 and saw it in action at the West Point Simulation Center, he began to lose his bias.
"When I saw how people can form squads, use formation and use tactics in a real-world environment, I loved it," Brake said. "It was definitely a huge paradigm shift for me."
Brake branched into Air Defense Artillery and will be stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. He fully expects that when the time comes he will be able to engage his Soldiers with the VBS2.“Field training can be expensive and this allows a unit to have immersive training in here and really practice battle drills and formations,” Brake said.Cadets tasked with VBS2 projects had to conceptualize a training mission and then design it using the software. That required storyboarding, product testing and a lot of patience as they worked out the glitches.
"We had three different groups working on three different scenarios," Brake said. "We would test our simulation with another team of cadets who were also working on a VBS2 project, so we would critique each other."
Not everyone is a gamer, so tutorials had to be incorporated to allow the average person time to learn how to maneuver among virtual teammates in a real-world environment.
"We allow for about 10 minutes of free-play so people can get used to it," Brake said. "Even still, they won't be experts by the end of the day but you can see progress 30 minutes in as they start to understand how to do things. It's not a severely steep learning curve."
For Project Prometheus the team of 14 cadets, all engineering psychology majors, used a fictional map of a country to plot out missions. “We wrote an entire backstory for the country and spent a whole semester creating the missions,” Brake said.
The scenarios can get as real as the programmers want. In one mission, the squad leader is able to conduct a negotiation with a key leader.
"They can find a weapons cache and call it in to higher using actual reporting procedures to really focus on the training," Brake said.
Cadet Jonathan Hatch, project manager, split his time between leading the VBS2 team and working on his other project which he was presenting in Thayer Hall on Projects Day.
Still not convinced? See VBS2 in action by clicking on the image above and watching the YouTube video.
At the Simulation Center, Victor Castro and Maj. Daniel Kidd have no issue with calling it a video game since it's a user-friendly term in the Army gaming community. Hatch, however, prefers "training simulation."
"It's a video game but it's so much more," Hatch said. "It's about the attitude you approach it with. As you can see the cadet here are all working together to achieve their goal. If you try to go "Rambo" style in a military scenario, it won't work."
Hatch said there's utility in everything the Army offers its Soldiers, and it requires leaders to put in the effort to make it useful. Commanders who see VBS2 as a video game and not a training tool lose out on its effectiveness.
"If you structure this in the right fashion, create a chain of command and have everyone communicate with each other it transforms itself beyond that video game which a commander would scoff at," Hatch said. "It's good training that focuses a lot on observational learning. It's very visual but you still get hands into it so you're hitting a lot of different cognitive points."
One mission requires a squad to capture a high value target and Hatch pointed out that if one member of that unit deviates from the tactics and procedures, they'll fail. Essentially it teaches Soldiers to do the right thing every time. The projects taught cadets a few things too.
"The teams were able to get creative with this," Hatch said. "In designing a forward operating base, we worked with an outside contractor to develop the SIP-Huts."
In his other project, Hatch tested individual Soldier performance in a simulated combat scenario as it applied to hearing loss. This was a project conducted for the U.S. Army Public Health Command which tested survivability and lethality based on the various hearing conditions.
"We simulated everything from no hearing loss to being deaf on the paintball field," Hatch said. "Paintball was ideal because you still have that fear of being hit and you need to be aware of your surroundings."
A Soldier's hearing affects readiness, Hatch said, so it's a critical issue for the Army to re-examine its classifications on individual Soldier performance.
The Black Knight Rising team of cadets get to the West Point Club Ballroom early May 2 to set up their display for the crowds of visitors arriving for Projects Day.
Black Knight Rising on the move
Black Knight Rising is the academy’s entry into the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition from the team of Cadets Stuart Baker, Wei-Hung Chen, David Choe, Nick Fettinger, Brett Reichert and Kyle Yoder.
Flight Line of the Future I walked across the street to Jefferson Hall and was directed to the room where I thought I would see a briefing from Cadets Triada Cross, Rick Foster, Brian Gerardi, Matthew Rzonca and Jennifer Skawski on a systems approach to parking efficiency on Army football game days.
The interdisciplinary robotics competition requires teams to design and build an autonomous platform capable of navigating an obstacle course which mimics real-world driving challenges. It’s a pretty big project, in size and scope. It’s about six feet tall with something called a LIDAR spinning on top of it which creates a depth map of the environment to see obstacles.
“It shoots out lasers which gives us a 3-D map,” Yoder said.
The advantage of height, Yoder said, allows for a better view of the course and any impediments on it. The stereo camera provides color and depth information for finding colored objects—like white boundary lines—on the course.
“It helps to be up high, so we can see out further and the camera can get a good view downward as well as the LIDAR,” Yoder said. “I think it can actually see obstacles easily up to 100 feet, so it’s getting that map faster. We’ll give it the points and then it will plan the best route around the obstacles and adjust as needed.”
The team is composed of three computer science engineers and three electrical science engineers who were able to build the vehicle and its hardware and make it all work together. That means being able to integrate the mechanical design of the chassis with electrical power sub-systems and sensors which are all controlled by an onboard computer with graphical interfaces and remote telemetry. From the electrical engineering perspective Yoder said the biggest challenge was dealing with the sheer quantity of sub-systems.
“I’ve never worked with this many components having to be integrated before,” Yoder said. “Wiring it all together was somewhat a challenge but we got it together quick. There’s so many that if one goes down it creates a domino effect. It’s nice that it all flowed smoothly.”
Cadets are not subject matter experts by any stretch, though it’s apparent during Projects Day they make take the guise of scientists, electricians, botanists and architects—sometimes even actors (see “As You Like It”). Many cadets expressed that the projects enable them to learn or develop skills and experience trials by error. It’s also why every team has at least one departmental advisor, and in some cases several if it’s interdisciplinary.
Yoder accidently burned out the first light strip—a safety feature on the vehicle—on his first attempt but learned from that experience. The cadets still have time to tweak the design as the competition is not until June. Yoder said the competition features undergraduate and graduate entries usually from more than 50 teams to include several international teams.
“A lot of teams aren’t actually able to compete,” Yoder said. “You first have to meet all the safety requirements and there’s a maximum and minimum speed requirements also so there’s a lot of things that can hinder a team before the competition starts. It’s a big project…you can show up and things won’t work perfectly and the competition is over for you.” The Flight Line of the Future competition challenges teams of U.S. Military Academy cadets against teams from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
However, I found myself in a briefing about an Integrated Maintenance Management System with Cadets James Farris, Jonathan Mecker, Brewster Tisson and Grant Tucek. This was a Systems Engineering capstone project which I still can’t find listed in the Projects Day program.
According to an Association of Graduates report, there were six teams competing in this Flight Line of the Future competition sponsored by Lockheed Martin between USMA and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Tucek was first to address the panel on their concept of a new prototype for aviation maintenance scheduling.
“It’s basically the hub of all the Flight Line of the Future projects like 3-D printing, augmented reality, tool accountability and supply chain management which all really tie into our project,” Tucek briefed.
The system they hoped to improve upon is essentially an electronic version of the 30-year-old paper system. The problem, Tucek explained, is that it lacks any real-time awareness of what a maintenance unit is doing throughout a shift.
“The commander and the other operators don’t really know what the status of all the aircraft is, or give an accurate number to how many aircraft are operational,” Tucek said. “Nothing’s automated and there’s a lot of user activity required between moving data from a USB drive from one computer to another in a command center.”
The team spoke with their stakeholders in the Pentagon on what they wanted in a future system: automation, modularity, time and conditions based maintenance, and real-time updates. Tisson then provided a scenario to illustrate their proposal for a next-generation system.
“Before an aircraft even lands it wirelessly sends information to the base about its fuel levels…health of its systems, health of its pilot, so by the time it lands everyone on the base is already working on the problem,” Sisson said. “It’s going to process all this information and each part of the maintenance system can already be working on it because it tell you what maintenance needs to be done, which maintainers are needed, what parts, what tools and also it tells the leaders who they need to schedule.”
How depressing is a Thayer Week for cadets at the academy? Considering the amount of stress and coursework subjected on cadets, is there a protein in the blood stream that would detect their mood changes? Cadets Eric Triller, Jessica Jordan and Giovanna Camacho collected blood samples from 21 cadets over the course of several weeks to study the P11 protein which has been identified as a marker for depression.
Combating Depression The next issue of the Association of Graduate’s "West Point" magazine will feature this project but I couldn’t resist reporting on it myself. TheDepartment of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership has teamed up with the Photonics Research Center, Rockerfeller University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden to study the P11 protein which has been identified as a marker for depression.
Cadets Giovanna Camacho, Jessica Jordan and Eric Triller collected blood samples from 21 volunteers from the Corps of Cadets every 15 days for five months which will be analyzed to determine the protein’s sensitivity to seasonal light level effects on mood and life event stressors. The cadets also conducted research based on self-report data from their subjects.
“We asked them about their mood, their exercise and diet, hours of sleep and how many graded event they had per week,” Triller said. “So we believe the way P11 plays into this is the inverse correlation—as depression goes up, the protein goes down and when depression goes down, the protein is higher.”
Jordan said this is just the initial phase of the project and more will be done when the analysis is returned from Sweden.
“Next semester will start a full year of research and it will be interesting to see how the fall semester compares with the spring semester,” Jordan said.
Cadets prepare their aircraft for a presentation in Thayer Hall May 2 where they briefed on their participation in the 2013 SAE Design, Build, Fly Competition.
The SAE Design, Build, Fly Competition is a collegiate contest for graduate and undergraduate engineers that requires a systems approach to designing an autonomous aircraft but also integrates other engineering disciplines: aeronautical, mechanical, electrical, and computer engineers.
The goal of the competition is to build a remote-controlled airplane that can complete one lap around a flight pattern while lifting as much weight as possible.
This year's team included Cadets Mitchell Acosta, Jack Balstad, John Barnes, John Barr, John Buckley, Andrew Eck, Erik Najera, Bradley Soviak, Nicholas Thurston and Bryan Wilson. Buckely was the cadet in charge of the project and oversaw the work of the wing, engine and fuselage teams. Their aircraft, “Clarice,” experienced an accident which prevented it from taking flight.
Cadets Michael Williams and Benton Beltramo presented a modeling approach to identifying high-risk areas for vehicular collisions in the Newburgh-Middletown urban area.
A crash course in geospatial information systems Accidents happen, but better predictive analysis could help appropriate state and federal funds for highway safety.
That's what Cadets Benton Beltramo and Michael Williams were after when they examined the spatial distribution of collisions in the Newburgh-Middletown urban area. Geospatial information systems can track multiple variables for use in analysis like speed limits, signal types and road lengths which contribute to vehicular accidents.
"Essentially the end result was that we created a model that re-reanked intersections not based on past performance but their predicted future performance in terms of number of accidents per a million vehicles entering the intersection," Williams said.
Their hope was such analysis would be help supplement existing state and federal data for highway safety measures by identifying historically dangerous intersections and establishing a model for predicting future traffic accidents under current trends.
Cadet Philip Daichendt talks to some visiting students on Projects Day about the SAW Mini-Baja Competition. Daichendt joined Cadets Anthony Dibiase, Jennifer Dittmer, Asael Flores, Jeffrey Ginther, Shane Lowe, William Mengon, Michael Shehen, James Tyler and Michael Wall in the project which has been a highlight of Projects Day since it first began in May 2000.
This year's recipients of the Clark Award were Cadets Christopher Wallace and Erik Hunstad for the project “Diagnostics on Demand Device.” Team advisers were Dr. J. Kenneth Wickiser and Dr. James Loy, Department of Chemistry and Life Sciences. Learn more about this award here.
The team of Cadets Tiffany Held, Scott Reynolds and Wells Lange discusses their project on muscle activation and pull-up proficiency with a plebe inside the Center for Physical Development Excellence during Projects Day.
Muscles matter Cadets Tiffany Held, Wells Lange and Scott Reynolds studied the differences in muscle activation patterns to track proficiencies and deficiencies on subjects conducting pull-up exercises. Some people simply can’t perform a proper pull-up and this team wanted to find out if it’s a strength issue or some sort of muscle activation issue that prevents a person from getting over the bar. The kinesiology majors first tested the seven test subjects on their anthropometrics—like height, weight, circumferences and skin folds. To see how the subjects’ muscles fully activate a max isometric contraction test was conducted using various exercises.“We tested seven different muscles which we thought most significantly to the pull-up exercise,” Lange said. “Then we hooked them up to the EMG leads and did max isometric contractions for each of the seven muscles,” Held said. “Then they would either attempt to do one pull-up or do as many as they could.”“The standard we set during the test for our subjects was the pronated grip and they had to keep their body in a straight line with their jaw above the bar,” Lange added.The subjects then grabbed a weight for a single max repetition of a lat pull-down, bicep curl and bench press.What these tests showed was that those unable to do pull-ups use different muscles than those who are proficient at pull-ups. “The deficient subjects were actually recruiting the wrong muscles,” Held said. “Of the seven muscles we chose we saw the biceps, brachii and posterior deltoid were what the proficient subjects were using to perform multiple pull-ups. The deficient subjects were recruiting muscles that inhibited them from doing a pull-up. This is strictly based on the seven subjects we observed.”Those muscles would be the pectoralis major, triceps brachii and anterior deltoid. The cadets found high activation of the brachioradialis, a muscle used primarily for grip strength, in deficient subjects as they attempted to complete a pull-up.“What we would suggest for someone trying to work on their pull-ups is to do more curls and increase your strength in the biceps and anterior deltoids,” Held said.
The project “Running Pace Sustainment” was presented by Cadets Andrew Joliat, Bryan Reasonover and Sean Roemer and featured a hip harness designed to improve sprint speed.
Designing the Soldier of the Future
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency asked a team of cadets to create a device which would allow a Soldiers to extend their sprint speed for a longer time. Cadets Andrew Joliat, Bryan Reasonover and Sean Roemer designed a motor-driven, hip-actuating device.
"Our device was part of a much larger project called "The Warrior Web Project" with the task of creating the Soldier of the future," Reasonover said. "We knew that our device shouldn't interfere with the other devices or systems that are attached to the Soldier."
With a limited amount of time the team was advised to select either the hip, knee or ankle to focus their device on. They chose the hip based on their capstone adviser's own research on a similar device.
The next question they had to answer was whether to design a passive device or a motorized one that would augment human muscles to provide the movement required. A motor would add additional weight to a runner and might hinder movement.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the cadets recorded a subject running on a treadmill and used motion-capture to get the values to calculate what motor and spring would be required for the device.
The team wanted the device to provide half the effort of what naturally is required by the hip joint in a sprint. The prototype cannot be tested until it receives medical board approval, which they did not request since the device didn't meet their spring specifications. Still, Joliet said they accomplished a lot of groundwork for futher project development.
"It matches up very closely to our final design, but the future needs for our project are still pretty vast," he said.
William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” was performed at the conclusion of Projects Day in Robinson Auditorium. The comedy was performed and staged by the cadets from the EP394 course required for literature majors.
All the world's a stage...
What better way to finish off Projects Day then with a little entertainment, courtesy of the talented cast and crew of cadets from the Department of English and Philosophy.
Their performance of "As You Like It" had it all...comedy, action, song and a few of Shakespeare's famous soliloquies.
Awarded for Innovation
Cadets Mitchell Johnson, Ethan Naylor and Brandon Clumpner earned third place at the 2013 National Security Innovation Competition, sponosred by the National Homeland Defense Foundation.
Their project was titled "Mobile Flame Suppression System: An Autonomous Approach to Individualized Flame Injury Protection."
A total of nine finalists vied for the top honors after being initially chosen recently by 27 national and homeland security-related industry and government scientists and technologists from across the country. All of the finalists made oral presentations to a panel of national-level judges from government and industry. The awards were made based on these presentations.
Presentation excerpt: The Mobile Flame Suppression System (MFSS) was created to protect the most vital, and vulnerable, body parts as determined through surveys of Army burn specialists and researchers. The device targets the hands and face to ensure combat effectiveness and focus on areas that currently have insufficient protection. When Soldiers receive burns to their hands and face, their ability to extricate themselves from danger decreases. The MFSS disperses a flame retardant, non-toxic, fluid over the face and hands called ColdFire™. This fluid is safe and will not harm the skin. In order to facilitate fluid dispersion, the MFSS deploys a canister of pressurized CO2 to disperse a pre-charged amount of ColdFire™ fluid through a small tubing system to the Soldier’s collar and gloves. The MFSS takes advantage of the thermodynamics of the pressurized CO2 which, in combination with the ColdFire™, creates extremely cold foam that exhausts the flame, absorbs heat, and provides flame protection on the area for a short period of time.
Now and Then
This year's Projects Day featured more than 250 presentations on display representing the academic output of cadets from 15 academic departments and 22 centers. Along with hundreds of cadets presenting their work, some midshipmen and students representing their schools from across the nation also participated in Projects Day.
It's hard to believe that Projects Day only started 14 years ago when cadets first showcased their capstone projects from seven departments.
Before then the projects funded by the Association of Graduates were received by a limited audience inside Herbert Hall. But Projects Day grew over the years and developed a larger forum to display the cadets’ academic pursuits. The next year, 72 projects were presented by more than 280 cadets in 15 departments, and area school children were invited to see the projects.