MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Civil Air Patrol cadets from across the country converged this week upon the Middle Tennessee State University campus to participate in national-level science and engineering academy hosted by the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.
The 31 youths are part of the U.S. Air Force volunteer civilian auxiliary’s National Cadet Engineering Technology Academy, also known as E-Tech, which MTSU has hosted since 2017. The 31 cadets, selected through a competitive process, hail from as near as Tennessee and as far away as Hawaii, Minnesota, Iowa and Texas — and even one from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Five additional cadets and six adult members are attending as staff.
“E-Tech is a fantastic exposure to all the different technical departments across the university — with lots of hands-on fun,” said Cadet Capt. Seth Damsgard of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who is serving as the academy’s cadet commander.
The cadets, who arrived on campus Sunday, July 9, and will depart Saturday, July 15, are staying in MTSU residence halls and attending activities covering aerospace, engineering technology, physics and astronomy, data science, concrete and construction management, geosciences, biology, chemistry and mechatronics.
The academy also features an experience in the high-tech MakerSpace in the James E. Walker Library; activities with MTSU’s Army ROTC program; a visit to the College of Media and Entertainment's Recording Industry Studio D; a presentation by officials from the Murfreesboro plant for General Mills; and a seminar led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, the university’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives.
Among the hands-on activities by the cadets at the academy: Piloting aerospace flight simulators, driving “moon buggies” built by MTSU’s Engineering Technology students, working ground-penetrating radar and using the electronic marksmanship course under the watch of Army ROTC instructors.
“My favorites have been creating in the MakerSpace, driving the engineering vehicles and flying in the simulators,” Damsgard said. “This unique experience will spark new interests for all us cadets.”
“MTSU has once again rolled out the blue carpet for Civil Air Patrol,” said Lt. Col. Robert Gilbert of Winter Haven, Florida, the E-Tech activity director. “Nothing beats the practical experience our cadets are receiving in the classrooms and laboratories in MTSU’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences.”
MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes praised College of Basic and Applied Dean Greg Van Patten and the faculty for developing “a truly broad set of unique, hands-on experiences” for the cadets.
“We are proud to partner with Civil Air Patrol and look forward to welcoming these top-notch cadets to our campus every summer,” Byrnes said.
Cadet Lt. Col. Andrew Emert-Higgins of Baltimore, Maryland, said it was “nice meeting people who are passionate about engineering and being able to figure out new fields of possible interest.”
“I feel this academy is helpful because you get to figure out what you’re passionate about in relation to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”
For Cadet Staff Sgt. Olivia Booyer of Brumley, Missouri, the draw was visiting MTSU’s Aerospace Department. “My favorite part was operating the flight simulator,” she said.
Seeing the MTSU campus was tops for Cadet 1st Lt. Grace Lazo-Lemos of Holland, Michigan. “My favorite part was definitely the campus tour,” she said. “Whether STEM is your field of interest or not, you’ll leave having learned something new.”
Civil Air Patrol, founded in 1941 just before the start of America’s involvement in World War II, has more than 60,000 volunteer members. Congress chartered the organization to support the Air Force and it is best known for its aerial search-and-rescue missions; cadet program for youths 12 through 18; and commitment to aerospace education.
MTSU and CAP have been partners in aerospace education for cadets since 2014. But the two entities first partnered from 1948 to 1953, when CAP’s Middle Tennessee State College Squadron was organized by students taking flight training at the on-campus airport.