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Cadet researcher spends summer weeks at Sandia Laboratories in NM

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Editor's note: This is the second story in a three-part series on the Air Force Academy's Cadet Summer Research Program. Each summer, through the CSRP, more than 100 cadets spend several weeks at private and public research facilities around the world where they apply their classroom knowledge to a variety of military research topics. This year, cadets visited the Facebook campus in California, Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico and WalMart headquarters in Arkansas. The CSRP provides an opportunity for cadets to apply knowledge from the classroom to programs across the country.

Cadet 1st Class Tyler Hudson, a mechanical engineering major at the Air Force Academy, spent five weeks in New Mexico this summer in the Aircraft Compatibility Department of Sandia Laboratories, a federally-funded research and development center in Albuquerque.

His goal was to continue his work on a computer program that determines the stress a bomb sustains during flight and verifies the safety of nuclear weapons loaded on aircraft.

"They have been changing and updating a program built in the 1980s," Hudson said. "We were trying to make the program easily usable, clean the program up and make it a standalone program that doesn't require special coding software."

Keeping the U.S. nuclear stockpile safe and effective is a major part of Sandia's work as a national security engineering laboratory, Hudson said.

"Nuclear weapons are a secure area of technology and (Sandia) wants to make sure they get everything right," he said. "On a nuclear bomb there are six points of contact - two hooks and four sway braces."

Sway braces ensure a nuclear or conventional weapon does not sway or swing from its connections when an aircraft performs maneuvers.

"I was looking at making sure the bomb was secure going through certain Mach numbers, at certain speeds, at a certain altitude and under certain load conditions," Hudson said.

Mach numbers refer to the speed of an aircraft relative to the speed of sound.

"I took a systems dynamics course the semester prior to my internship (at Sandia Laboratories) and a lot of the projects were very similar to what we were working on in the internship," he said. "The internship allowed me to demonstrate the knowledge I learned in my Mechanical Engineering courses at the Academy. It also validated the topics covered in my courses."

Hudson said the Academy's broad base of instruction and high academic standards were a benefit to his internship.

"Most undergraduate institutions do not require engineering majors to take as many mathematics courses as the Academy," he said. "The broad base of instruction provided at the Academy as well as the high academic standards ensured I was able to converse with my research partner, Philip Jones, a graduate student from Virginia Tech pursuing his doctorate in mechanical engineering. I was able to converse with Philip and contribute just as effectively, despite our differences in education levels."

Visit www.usafa.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123457010 to read about cadet's research to improve the Facebook search function.