Details: Mechanical Engineering with Honors

At West Point, my primary major was Mechanical Engineering. Within Mechanical Engineering, there were several options for focus areas (e.g. automotive, aeronautical, energy systems, biological systems, etc). I choose energy systems as my focus area and learned a lot about power plants, thermodynamics, power systems, different forms of energy, etc.

Since graduating, my main engineering interests have been the metallurgy of steel, the use of electricity in place of hydrocarbons, and thermal power cycles

Spring of 2005
MA364: Engineering Mathematics
This course covered some of the advanced aspects of engineering math such as divergence, gradients, curls, etc. It was one of the hardest classes I ever took. It probably would have been a lot easier if I'd waited until later.

Fall of 2005
CE300: Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanics and Design
This course was the first engineering class I took and it covered the most basic aspects of statics, such as stress, strain, yield strength, etc.

Spring of 2006
EE301: Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering
This course covered the basics of electrical engineering, including resistance, voltage, alternating current, etc.

Fall of 2006
CE364: Mechanics of Materials
This course was mainly a continuation of CE300 where we covered some more advanced topics such as Mohr's circle, von Mises stress, basic metallurgy, etc. The topic in this course that interested me the most was the metallurgy of steel. Ever since I took this course, I've been interested in the different types of steel, how they're made, and what they're used for.
ME306: Dynamics
This course covered force, acceleration, and movement in three different coordinate systems (rectilinear, cylindrical, and polar).
ME311: Thermal-Fluid Systems I
This course covered the basics of fluid mechanics and thermodynamics including Bernoulli's Law, enthalpy, entropy, basic power cycles, etc. This class introduced me to thermal power cycles, which have been one of my main interests ever since. I didn't realize it until I took this class, but most forms of electricity generation are just different prime movers for a generator, which usually operate by heating up water and letting the steam expand through a turbine. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel are just different ways up heating up water. The only major exception that comes to mind is photovoltaic cells, which don't involve spinning a generator.
CH385: Introduction to Cell Biology
This course was my technical elective. I originally wanted to do biological systems instead of energy systems as my track. After I took this class, I decided I was more interested in energy systems, so I switched my track and counted this course as my technical elective. It covered basic topics of cell biology such as structure, metabolism, reproduction, etc.

Spring of 2007
ME312: Thermal-Fluid Systems II
This course was a continuation of ME311 and mainly covered advanced topics in automotive, aeronautical, and power plant design. I learned a lot about automotive engineering, which ended up being useful later in Afghanistan.
ME370: Computer-Aided Design
This course was an introduction to using computers as a tool to solve engineering problems. We covered the theory behind finite element analysis and learned to use SolidWorks.
ME380: Engineering Materials
This course covered different types of engineering materials and their properties. The three main types of materials covered were metals, ceramics, and polymers. We spent a lot of time talking about ceramics because my instructor (Dr Jeff Swab) was a researcher at Army Research Labs before coming to West Point and most of his work was in ceramics. I realized how useful ceramics can be for armor, especially when combined with polymers.
ME403: Manufacturing and Machine Component Design
This course applied the general concepts from basic mechanics to machine component topics such as shafts, keys, couplings, gears, threads, etc. This course also covered fatigue failure, stress concentrations, etc. It also included a lot of good labs on welding, brazing, and using machine tools such as the drill press, lathe, grinder, etc.
EE377: Electrical Power Engineering
This class basically covered generators and motors. It was one of the two courses I took as part of my energy systems sequence. We learned the concepts behind how both types of systems work and the different types of each.

Fall of 2007
ME404: Mechanical Engineering Design
This course covered a lot of the management and decision-making aspects of engineering design. We covered objectives trees, Pareto charts, weighted decision matrices, Gantt charts, etc.
ME480: Heat Transfer
This course covered three major methods of heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation. The bulk of the class focused on convection.
XE472: Dynamic Modeling and Control
This class covered control systems. It was one of the most abstract, conceptually difficult classes I took. The calculations weren't to difficult, but the concepts were very hard to grasp.

Spring of 2008
ME400: Mechanical Engineering Seminar
This course was a series of ten seminars during my last semester at West Point. They brought in experts from the mechanical engineering industry to talk about their work and research.
ME496: Mechanical System Design
This was the capstone course and it didn't include much formal classroom time. I mostly consisted of appointments with our capstone advisor. I had two partners for my capstone and we made three different lower receivers for an M4 out of three different polymers (nylon-6, polycarbonate, and acetyl resin). When we tested them, the acetyl resin (also known as Delrin) receiver performed the best.
ME472: Energy Conversion Systems
This class covered different forms of energy and how to convert between them. It was the second of my two courses for my energy systems sequence. We spent a lot of time talking about the limitations of current sources of energy and possible alternatives. From what I learned, I concluded that nuclear energy is the best intermediate-term alternative to fossil fuels and solar power is the best long-term solution. The solar solution makes sense because all the energy we use on Earth ultimately comes from the sun, so more efficiency should be possible by cutting out the intermediate steps.