Almost 40 Civil Air Patrol cadets from across the country were busy working in laboratories at Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences this week as a special national engineering technology academy resumed on campus after a two-year pandemic pause.
MTSU welcomed back youth selected for the U.S. Air Force volunteer civilian auxiliary’s National Cadet Engineering Technology Academy, also known as E-Tech, which runs June 26 through July 2 on the Blue Raider campus. While four of the 29 cadets selected through a competitive process are from Tennessee, others hail from as far away as Arizona, New Jersey, Minnesota, Puerto Rico — and one from a CAP squadron based at the Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Eight cadets are attending as staff.
“The national, and now international, draw of these cadets to our campus speaks both to the quality of our educational offerings and the leadership of Civil Air Patrol’s cadet program to make possible this experience,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee.
Cadets are living in MTSU residence halls and attending classes taught by university faculty and staff from Aerospace, Engineering Technology, Physics and Astronomy, Data Science, Concrete and Construction Management 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 and a seminar led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, the university’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives.
Participants must be at least 15 years old and have completed a weeklong CAP leadership encampment activity to apply. It is the fourth time MTSU has hosted the academy. It was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. MTSU and CAP have been partners in aerospace education for cadets since 2014.
“We’re thrilled to be back on campus,” said Lt. Col. Robert “Bob” Gilbert of Winter Haven, Florida, director of the CAP national cadet special activity. “Nothing beats the practical experience our cadets are receiving in your university’s classrooms and laboratories.”
Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Greg Van Patten said his college developed “a set of unique, hands-on experiences, across a range of fields.”
“Our college welcomes the return of Civil Air Patrol to our campus, as well as the opportunity for our faculty to engage with these talented cadets,” Van Patten said. “We’re giving these cadets a real taste of college life.”
This year’s marks the second year that Carter Moore, 18, has served as cadet commander of the academy, having served in the leadership role during the 2019 activity at MTSU. While he said he appreciated CAP filling the pandemic gaps with virtual experiences, he said he couldn’t wait to get back on the Murfreesboro campus.
“Getting to talk to the professors and having the in-person classroom experience and having a more involved experience — today, we built robots, for example — is much, much better than virtual,” said Moore, who hails from Garner, North Carolina, near Raleigh.
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, assembling robots with Mechatronics faculty and navigating the obstacle course under the watch of Army ROTC instructors.
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; it’s best known for its aerial search-and-rescue missions; cadet program for youths 12 through 18; and commitment to aerospace education.
MTSU’s close ties with CAP stretch back to July 1948, the year CAP’s Middle Tennessee State College Squadron was organized; MTSU’s Department of Aerospace was six years old at the time. Based at the old College Airport, the squadron comprised pilots trained on campus and was recognized for its search-and-rescue work. It operated on campus until 1953.
— Andrew Oppmann (Andrew.Oppmann@mtsu.edu)