Published: April 27, 2014
Cadets have some big ideas.
Patenting the capabilities to lift a house above floodwaters. Developing hacker-proof "safe zones" inside computer chips.
A new traffic roundabout nicknamed the "Chevy Chase model."
That and more went on display as cadets strutted their brainpower for other undergraduate students and faculty at the 11th annual Colorado Springs Undergraduate Research Forum this month. In true military fashion, they call it CSURF.
The event drew more than 350 students from the Air Force Academy, Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. It was billed as a collaborative venture designed to highlight the accomplishments of undergraduate studies from the three universities.
"The purpose behind CSURF is to get these three regional universities to collaborate and know what each is doing research-wise," said Lt. Col. Candice Pipes, associate professor of English at the academy and chief organizer of this year's forum.
While the academy benefits from more than $60 million in annual research grants, Pipes said, undergraduate research is largely focused on the students' academic development.
"While the cadets are benefiting from hearing other students' research, they also get a chance to participate in what is academia - a chance to act as they would in graduate school," she said.
It's more than just an academic exercise for senior cadet Kevin Dolan of Long Island, N.Y. It's a business venture to him, and it's personal. Dolan's entire neighborhood was wiped out by the tidal surge created by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. That was the catalyst for a conversation with his grandfather, who first patented the idea of lifting a house above floodwaters in 1998.
Dolan said better technology today has allowed his team to develop a system it hopes to patent and see put into use.
Information security is the motivating factor for senior cadets Ben Vowell of Greenfield, Ind., and Billy Vine of Dayton, Ohio. Their work with chipmaker Intel Corp. is helping develop computer hardware that prevents malicious code from reaching vital information.
"The application of this technology is limitless if you think about the industries that can benefit - defense contractors, banking, e-commerce," Vine said.
Kelli Klebe, associate vice chancellor of research and dean of graduate studies at UCCS, made her way around to presentations from each of the schools.
"Another advantage of getting these institutions together is we each are fairly small in the specialties we follow, and it allows us to learn different disciplines, different ways of doing things and different applications," Klebe said.
Klebe said she believed the research completed by the undergraduate students was important and the applications were limitless in an increasingly complex world.
But student development remains the most important product of the forum, said Lt. Gen. Ervin Rokke, senior scholar in residence at the academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development, who opened the forum.
"What I see looking at this CSURF is the millennium generation strutting their stuff in terms of how they think about this complex new world we live in. The reality is, they are learning as much, if not more, from each other," Rokke said.