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Cadets give final presentation on aeromedical evacuation prototype

Seven senior cadets from the Air Force Academy presented their final patient loading prototype to 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members May 3 at Scott AFB.  Back row: Jared Rillings, Matt Hein, Brad Phelan, Maj. Cody Rasmussen.  Front row: Fred Rath, Jenna Whetsel, Hayden Richards, Tyler Ogren. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman)

Seven senior cadets from the Air Force Academy presented their final patient loading prototype to 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members May 3, 2013 at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Back row: Jared Rillings, Matt Hein, Brad Phelan, Maj. Cody Rasmussen. Front row: Fred Rath, Jenna Whetsel, Hayden Richards, Tyler Ogren. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman)

Cadet 1st Class Hayden Richards shows 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members the brainstorming process the cadets went through to come up with patient loading system prototypes May 3.  During the presentation, the cadets talked about the new enhancements to the current PLS, which they have been working on since their last presentation in January.  (U.S. photo/Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman)

Cadet 1st Class Hayden Richards shows 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members the brainstorming process the cadets went through to come up with patient loading system prototypes May 3, 2013. During the presentation, the cadets talked about the new enhancements to the current PLS, which they have been working on since their last presentation in January. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman)

Maj. Cody Rasmussen, U.S. Air Force Academy engineering mechanics department advisor, shows 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members photos of the final patient loading system prototype during the Capstone project presentation.  Seven senior cadets worked on enhancing features to the current PLS.

Maj. Cody Rasmussen, U.S. Air Force Academy engineering mechanics department advisor, shows 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members photos of the final patient loading system prototype during the Capstone project presentation. Seven senior cadets worked on enhancing features to the current PLS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Maria Bowman)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Seven senior Air Force Academy cadets returned to Scott Air Force Base May 3 to meet with 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron members to showcase their final patient loading prototype.

This presentation was a follow-up to the one they made January, where they showed seven potential prototypes that could improve how aeromedical evacuation teams transport patients into a high-deck aircraft.

"Based on the customer feedback from the January meeting, the team narrowed down their focus and worked on the evolution of the current Patient Loading System," said Daniel Jensen, the Academy's Department of Engineering Mechanics professor. "That involved analysis, prototyping and testing of the four enhanced features: castor system, cable and pulley system, the winch that pulls the cable and pulley, and gurney system."

Cadet 1st Class Jenna Whetsel said one key factor for the team was listening to the customer.

"The interaction was huge. Every time we talked, there was something new on the list of things they wanted," she said. "We had to be really flexible and continuously adapt and change our design to meet the customers' needs."

The idea of seeing their prototype coming to fruition was an exciting move from classroom theory to application.

"In the future, we have the potential to see our project out in the real Air Force--it's applicable to real life," said Whetsel. "That's really neat."

Maj. Samantha Treadwell, Air Mobility Command Medical Modernization officer in charge, said that when she was listening to the presentation, she looked for particular hazards.

"My main concerns when we put the patient on the PLS are is it going to be able to safely move the patient up and down the ramp without a lot of jarring, uncomfortable angles, or without the patient sliding off of it," she said. "My other concern is for the people who will be going up and down the ramp with the patient. There should be no tripping or falling hazards, and that the people are able to operate the brake system easily."

Treadwell said she likes the improvements.

"I think the prototype the cadets presented provides safer transport for the patients, as well as the people doing the lifting." Treadwell said. "It's simplistic in design so that someone can build it. It would be easy enough for us to take it with us and use it without having additional personnel who have to be specially trained to operate the system."

After the presentation, 375th AES members were encouraged to stay behind and provide feedback to the cadets.

"I'm hoping that from the feedback we receive today, AMC will have a definite way forward with the PLS and can actively pursue a final solution to this identified gap," Treadwell said.

Whetsel said the Academy team drew close while building the prototype.

"Our team got along really well and worked cohesively together," she said. "We had a good relationship outside of school, as well as inside the classroom, so that helped overall in our success."

Maj. Cody Rasmussen, the Academy's engineering mechanics department advisor said: "I thought the project was a fantastic experience for the cadets, especially since they got to work on a system that had the potential to go into the field. It is fairly uncommon for our Capstone teams to have such a connection to the users. That is great for their experience as engineers and future officers."