Civil Air Patrol
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St. Mary’s squadron cadet wins grand prize at St. Mary’s County Science and Engineering Fair

March 10, 2019 – GREAT MILLS, Md.-  Can you design a better cast for a broken arm? Do pyramids really have healing powers? Can you tell if a person is walking or running just by looking at footprints? These problems CAN be solved. Sometimes the solutions are found at local and national science fairs. Middle school and high school student science projects begin with a meaningful question or idea, follow investigative guidelines and when complete, the student enters his/her project in a school/county/state or national science fair. Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Tom Wilson did just that and was awarded the Grand Prize (Senior) for his project Best Tour of the Store at the 2019 St. Mary’s County Science and Engineering Fair held in Great Mills, Md. Wilson was one of 55 entries in the Senior Division that vied for honors. Congratulations to C/CMSgt Wilson who is a member of Civil Air Patrol’s St. Mary’s Composite Squadron, a unit within the Maryland Wing. In addition to his recent achievement, in 2018 Wilson won first place in the Junior Division with his project Vacation Irrigation.

How did cadet Wilson win the Grand Prize? He created an application titled Best Tour of the Store that assists shoppers in locating items listed on their shopping list by guiding them through the fastest route in any store. Regardless if its Food Lion, Giant or McKay’s or other markets, a shopper with their list can use Wilson’s newly developed app and will (most of the time) find items via the fastest route through the store thereby, reducing their time shopping.

Why this particular app? Wilson chose this particular science fair project because he believed that he and others spent much longer than necessary in a store attempting to locate items by wandering. He indicated that routinely shoppers even pass by items needed while they attempt to locate them though aimless walking in the store repeating routes numerous times to find everything on the shopping list! In our busy world, time is very important. “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back,” says Harvey McKay, columnist and author.

Wilson has an intense love for flying. He has a dream to venture into space and maybe even go to Mars. With a life goal to view our planet from a vast distance, 1st Lt. Peter Wilson, a senior member of the St. Mary’s squadron and Tom’s father who is a test pilot, encouraged his son to join CAP to access the aerospace education and flight programs. Both cadet Wilson and his father joined CAP in 2017.

When asked about his CAP experiences cadet Wilson replied, “I enjoy attending weekly meetings and promotion recognitions which are fantastic parts of the program. I believe one of CAP’s best assets are the people in this organization who are amazing. My best CAP experience is participating in the regional color guard competition. Being able to bunk with fellow cadets and participate in a multi-day event with close friends gained through CAP was very enjoyable. I had a great time representing my team in Jeopardy, and if it wasn’t for missing the final buzzer, I would have won! Maybe I’ll win next time.”  Wilson added, “Most of my CAP experience has been positive. However, some took a bit of getting used to, like encampment. That activity was a bit rough, but I needed to attend for promotion purposes. I would have rather been flying!”

The St. Mary’s squadron cadets have a long history of participating in the annual St. Mary’s County Science Fair beginning with the very first science fair held in 1962.  Science fair participants develop a science fair project that must be experimental in nature and not just a research project or demonstration. It takes commitment and stamina as students test, survey or experiment to determine the answer to their question instead of simply researching the answer. The goal of a Science Fair is to stimulate an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to provide a learning experience for students with a long-term goal of producing scientists, engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists.

CAP’s STEM programs also generate enthusiasm among cadets and K-12 youth for STEM-related subjects and careers through a program supplying STEM resources for hands-on, inquiry-based learning. These STEM resources complement CAP’s current aerospace education materials, provided to CAP units and educator members. Civil Air Patrol offers programs free to its members that brings hands-on aviation and space-related activities to cadets, students and senior members. For more information about CAP’s aerospace education programs visit .

St. Mary’s Composite Squadron meets every Wednesday from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at St. Mary’s Regional Airport in California, Md. For information about the squadron, including meeting address and contact information, visit Follow the squadron on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Nearly 1,500 CAP members serve in Maryland. Last year wing members flew 13 search and rescue missions. The wing was credited with four finds. Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the state of Maryland. Members flew 2,245 hours in all mission categories. Volunteers contributed services estimated at $4.6 million. For more information, contact the Maryland Wing at or follow the wing on Facebook at

Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. In addition, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace/STEM education, and its members serve as mentors to over 25,000 young people participating in CAP’s cadet programs. Visit or for more information.


Photos (left to right):

C/CMSgt Tom Wilson, joined St. Mary’s Composite Squadron in 2017. He currently is serves as the squadron’s cadet NCO for public affairs and aerospace education.

C/CMSgt Tom Wilson presented his entry for the 2019 St. Mary’s County Science and Engineering Fair for which he received a Grand Prize (Senior Level).

Cadet Tom Wilson also won the International Council of Systems Engineering (ICOSE) of Southern Maryland 2018 First Place award in the Junior Division with his project Vacation Irrigation.


Capt. Alice Raatjes, CAP
Asst. Public Affairs Officer, Maryland Wing

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