As we approach first class year, people begin to consider capstone projects. These are usually year-long projects that challenge cadets to confront a large-scale, real-world problem while incorporating what they have learned in their previous three years of study. Cadets get to choose, or in many cases, design their own capstone project, which means that you get to devote yourself to something that you are truly passionate about.
There are a wide variety of capstone projects each year, but some of the most interesting are the Coast Guard projects that cadets can choose from. A good friend of mine is a mechanical engineer and he is working on creating a sling and recovery system for a Coast Guard small boat. Undergraduate students rarely get to make things that play such a big role in the real world. Another good example is electrical engineering majors at the Academy are working to improve a dynamic positioning system (DPS). Coast Guard buoy tenders use DPS in order to keep position in variable currents and winds. Another good friend of mine, a management major, is working on a project to determine if the Coast Guard is making the best decisions in allocating money based on geographical location. All of these projects not only help them refine their craft, but can also have a direct and long-term impact on Coast Guard missions.
I am still undecided what I want to do my capstone project on. There are a lot of good options. Right now, we have students working on mustard gas toxicity research as well as diabetes research. Other areas of research include oil spill fingerprinting, which is something that the Coast Guard Marine Safety Lab does every day. There are a multitude of opportunities; the hard part is making a decision.
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