Midshipman Grant Vigneault speaks to BHS students

Midshipman Grant Vigneault speaks to BHS studentsBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

One of Ridgecrest’s own returned home from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland to inspire and encourage Burroughs High School students. Midshipman Grant Vigneault, Class of 2018, spoke to students on November 23. He tells us, “I’m here on behalf of the Naval Academy, expressing my enjoyment and telling stories about my time at school in an effort to recruit candidates that may benefit from a Naval Academy education.

The Naval Academy is the number one liberal arts public school in the country and we have many top 10 engineering majors in the country. We have three different fields of study: engineering, science and math majors and we have humanities and social science majors.” Vigneault is a Robotics and Control Systems Engineering (RCSE) major. He adds, “There’s so many different things that you can study. We have 26 majors.

As a current student at the Naval Academy, you are considered active duty military while earning your degree. That being said, you can come straight from high school into the academy; they welcome you with open arms. You do a six week training program at the beginning of your first year, where they teach you what what it’s like to be in the military before sending you into the classroom to get your degree. The caveat is if you’re coming straight from high school, you’re required to have a congressional or senatorial nomination from your congressman or your state senator.

It is an incredible place to go to school. You’re 30 minutes from Baltimore. You’re 30 minutes from Washington DC. We have world class athletic facilities at the institution. We have world class teachers. On that note, there’s an eight to one student to faculty ratio. I’m extremely close with many of my professors. An interesting note about what it’s like to go to school there. The civilian to military professor ratio is one to one. So half of your instructors over your time in Navy are going to be active duty military, while the other half are going to be civilians. And that’s been the most interesting part of going to school there because I had a physics instructor who six months before coming to the academy was driving a tank in the Middle East. You’re not going to find a school anywhere else in the country where someone’s teaching you projectile motion after just doing the same thing in a combat zone.”

Class sizes are small. “The most Midshipman I’ve had in a class with me is around about 18 and the smallest is six. So anywhere in that range is very normal.” As a RCSE major his coursework is interesting. “One of the core classes for the major is a class called the Guided Design Experience. You take a Nerf gun, and it’s mounted on a sort of a turret and you learn how to program this Nerf gun using cameras and code to do certain tasks that you want it to do. And we spent an entire semester doing that. It was incredible.”

Another highlight experience is his current work on the Student Unmanned Aerial Systems Competition (SUAS) team which is similar in scope to a senior project. “We are in the process of designing a housing for electronics that are going to power an autonomous vehicle. We have a fixed wing plane about five to six feet long. We’re taking all of the hardware that makes it fly and we’re designing and making a computer that’s going to power it. It’s me and five other Midshipmen putting our brains together and trying to get a plane off the ground. We’re using the labs down in the engineering spaces. We’ve done some aerodynamic testing in a wind tunnel … multi-million dollar facilities that were there at our fingertips.”

After he graduates in May2022, “I’m headed down to Pensacola, Florida to start naval flight training. I’m going to be a Navy pilot here in about two years. There are so many different things that you can do. You can go out and you can pilot submarines. You can drive surface ships, anywhere in the country, from destroyers to cruisers to aircraft carriers. You can go and you can be a Marine, you can go lead Marines in the field around the world.”

When Vigneault was 16 years old, “I was hired to work on the base at VX 31, thanks to a lucky break and a lot of people who were pulling for me. Several of those men and women on base attended the Naval Academy. I saw what it was like to serve in that capacity and where the Naval Academy could get you.” With encouragement, inspiration, and guidance of co-workers he applied. “Congressman Kevin McCarthy nominated me to attend the Academy. You can get into the institution, they can admit you, but you’re not going to be allowed to attend unless you have that validation. That’s probably the most competitive part of the application process. It’s for that reason, the acceptance rate maybe is round about 6% between six and eight percent.”

To the youngsters in Indian Wells Valley he says, “If you want to pursue an academy and you want to do well in the application process, and consider yourself as a competitive candidate, you have to not only just be good at science and engineering and math and English in your field of study, but you have to love learning. And I think that’s like the first step is you have to want to be smarter today than you were yesterday. If you’re that kid that’s a sophomore, junior, or senior in high school, and you have any inclination about serving, whether that’d be in the Navy Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, throw your hat in the ring and try to become a commissioned officer in the Navy Marine Corps. And if you want to do it through the service academy what’s stopping you?”

Story First Published: 2021-12-03