Civil & Mechanical Engineering at West Point: A Tradition of Excellence
The Nation’s First Department of Engineering
The Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering (C&ME) has a long-standing national reputation of excellence as “the Nation’s first department of engineering.” Incredibly diverse and talented, C&ME alumni have taught in every other USMA department, a claim no other department can make. U.S. News and World Report currently ranks the Civil Engineering program as second and the Mechanical Engineering program as fourth in the Nation among schools where a doctorate is not offered. The C&ME team of Cadets, Staff and Faculty is unique within West Point and is the primary reason for our success.
Project Based Learning is a Cornerstone of our Learning Model
The C&ME academic programs have adopted an increasingly vigorous project-based learning approach to its curricular content. Entirely consistent with trends in undergraduate engineering education, our programs lead peer institutions in many regards in this endeavor that leverages both a robust summer individual academic development program and provides diverse options for independent studies for those students who express a desire and aptitude to create depth within the field. In addition, a year-long senior capstone project synthesizes three years of core and program coursework and challenges cadets to solve relevant problems of great interest across the Department of Defense. Measures of success in this revised program and approach are varied and nearly unanimous. Mechanical Engineers for several recent years constitute the largest major at the Academy despite a reputation for challenging content and coursework. Further, Mechanical Engineering graduates win more scholarships each year than any other program at USMA. Cadets are co-authoring an average of 10 papers annually for publication at academic and industry conferences and in some cases journals within their disciplinary fields. More recently, cadets have also been awarded provisional and full patents to protect the intellectual property developed in their creative problem-solving approaches within their capstone design teams.
Civil & Mechanical Engineering Projects Support a Diverse Clientele
Cadets within the C&ME programs engage in projects spanning the breadth of their domain. Many of these projects directly support the Army Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and its subordinate units. For example, the Armament RDEC (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, requested that cadets propose a flash suppressor for the M249 automatic weapon capable of withstanding the associated high rates of fire. Cadets designed, fabricated, and tested their design through multiple iterations culminating in a model that significantly reduced the audible and visual signature of the weapon. ARDEC has rushed this prototype into field testing, and the cadets won the annual USMA-MIT Soldier Design Competition as a result.
Civil & Mechanical Engineering Program Cadets, Staff, and Faculty Make Unique Contributions
The C&ME programs seek to engage in projects in which cadets can uniquely contribute better than any other program in the world. While this standard is difficult to attain, numerous external agencies agree that collaboration with C&ME cadets provides the unparalleled return on investment. The biomechanical engineering thread of courses and research within Mechanical Engineering demonstrates this world-class potential as well as any other, and the Natick Soldier RDEC routinely turns to USMA to propose solutions to their most difficult problems. In conjunction with the Army Research Lab (ARL) cadets proposed, built, and tested subjects wearing a novel load distribution system that transfers rucksack load from the Soldier’s shoulder to the torso thereby increasing metabolic efficiency. In related work, cadets iterated on a passive cooling garment for Soldiers operating in hot climates that ultimately won the Service Academy Design Challenge beating not only Air Force and Navy but twenty other institutions.
Our Engineers are Multi-Disciplinary Problem Solvers
Our programs thrive in those domains that require multiple disciplines to address a single problem. The ongoing Structural Integrated Panel (SIP) hut design requires civil, mechanical, and environmental engineering cadets to collaborate in designing a small unit shelter that four untrained Soldiers can erect in four hours without any previous site improvements. Novel contributions include a quickly deployable foundation system capable of placement on an unprepared site within an hour and a roofing system that is ready for photovoltaic panel deployment. Both CENTCOM and SOUTHCOM have requested these cadet-designed systems be fielded within their areas of operation due to their rapid assembly, energy efficiency, and low life-cycle cost of operation. Similarly, the Radford Army Ammunition Plant commander requested that cadets engage in low-cost, high-impact design proposals for a suite of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) capable of autonomous patrolling, landing, and recharging.
Operate, Lead and Win in a Complex World
The culture of excellence within our programs allows project sponsors to set high expectations for their investment. Civil & Mechanical Engineering cadets demand opportunities to demonstrate their ability to operate autonomously just as they will as a junior officer in the Army. C&ME is always seeking high-payoff opportunities for cadet research and engineering across multiple domains such as aeronautical, automotive, biomechanical, energy, and mechatronics engineering and to develop key engagements within the industry, academia, and government. In concert with the Center for Innovation and Engineering, our programs foster a longitudinal academic experience that culminates with the unique, novel, and substantial support to the Army and DoD while developing the critical thinking skills necessary for graduates to operate, lead, and win in a complex world.