While field trips in college are rare to come by, the few that happen grandly exceed expectations. My first academic field trip happened this month with the Engineering Department: although the trip was geared toward first class mechanical and electrical engineering cadets, a spot opened and I was able to join as a fourth class. The all day trip was to the Sikorsky site in Stratford, Connecticut, about an hour away from the Academy. Sikorsky, one of the primary helicopter manufacturer's for the U.S. military, is a company under the direction of United Technologies – a conglomerate that includes Pratt and Whitney, Otis, and many other industries.
As a large group we learned how to design a helicopter in less than an hour, how the industry works with the military and civilian agencies to develop real technologies, and how great the potential we have as upcoming engineers is for innovation. After a lunch break we were divided into smaller sections and toured the plant, seeing the assembly processes of thousands of pieces into BlackHawks, SeaHawks, JayHawks, and many other products. The assembly line was impressively clean and had many safety measures in place, such as the eye protection we were provided on the tour. Additionally, the current designs led to conversation about future technologies, such as the X2 development project, which will increase speed, maneuverability, and environmental conditions for use. The company mentioned the potentials the new technology has for the Coast Guard: consider a craft able to drop a rescue swimmer closer to the water's surface with less disturbance, more maneuverability, and almost half the travel time from emergency to medical care – our mission would be revolutionized.
Obviously the trip was very intellectually engaging, but more than that, it reminded me why I chose an engineering major. Many cadets complain about their chosen major and the engineering majors are constantly epitomized by a lack of sleep and an overload of work. Even as a freshmen the dividing line between the engineers and the "other majors" is drawn and whenever there is complaint that work is too hard, others will joke that life for engineers will only become harder. True, the course load is going to become progressively more intensive, but the end goal is worth the labor.
If you have any questions about engineering at the Academy or cadet life at all, please feel free to contact me as always, Sarah.A.Kukich@Uscga.edu.
More about Sarah.