Appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy: Kasten to pursue alternate energy play for the future

Tom A. Savage, Contributing writer

Submitted photo

Aiden Kasten is one of three South Dakota high school seniors to be selected as principal nominees to the nation’s service academies. Kasten received his nomination for U.S. Senator Mike Rounds. He is the son of Travis Kasten and Amy Kasten.

If you ever feel like hunkering down for a good conversation about nuclear engineering, the colonization of humans on Mars or the moon, the SpaceX program, Helium 3 power, Uranium or Plutonium, Brandon Valley senior Aiden Kasten is your guy.

Kasten is headed to the U.S. Naval Academy in June to study nuclear engineering. He calls it a huge passion, especially in regards to the future of energy.

“It’s predicted that the first energy that’s going to be used on the first colonies of humanity are going to be powered by nuclear power,” he said. “Nuclear engineering is fascinating to me. I looked at college options and I learned that the Navy ranks towards the tops for nuclear engineering.”

Plus, serving in one of the country’s four branches of the military was a draw for Kasten. His grandfather, James Heronimus, served in the Vietnam War as a jeep technician in the Army and died in 2012 to lung cancer due to Agent Orange complications.

As a child, Kasten said he had visions of being an astronaut. Now, that’s clearly not out of the question. The Naval Academy has had 55 graduates  the most in NASA history – to graduate into the space program, including Jim Lovell, who was portrayed by Tom Hanks in the motion picture Apollo 13.

Kasten also knocked around the idea of being a botanist, the scientific study of plants. That later changed to nuclear engineering.

“Because engineering is a lot more interesting than plants,” he said.

He’ll wear BRANDON VALLEY on his chest a few more times yet this spring throwing the shot put on the track & gield team, but the move to Annapolis is fast approaching. He visited the historic Maryland city about 30 miles east of Washington, D.C. last year, and said he fell in love with it.

He’s been preparing for his initiation into the Academy by staying physically fit and mentally strong. After reporting on June 28, he’ll be processed on the 29th or 30th. From there, it’s boot camp run by drill instructors who were in his same position three years earlier.

“They’re drilling into you just as much as they were drilled into,” he said. “There’s a lot of running, physical activities, mental torments. You just try and get through it.”

If confidence is a key to get through it, then Kasten should be just fine. The National Honor Society student said he will take general courses and standardized leadership courses this fall before digging into his specialized interests.

Before classes begin and Kasten is battling his way through boot camp this summer, he’ll also have to be disciplined when it comes to technology. Each entering Midshipman is allowed just two phone calls home during the summer.

Although admittedly a little anxious, Kasten said he’s ready.

“I think if you ask anybody if they’re ready to go to college, their answer is going to be no. I don’t think anybody can be ready for such a huge thing,” he said. “I gotta work on myself, but I believe I can do it, and I think I will.”

He’s clearly got big plans after his five-year contract is up with the Navy following graduation. He said he’ll decide then if he’ll reinstate as an officer and keep “moving through the ranks.”

But he said it also depends on the energy market at the same time. 

“Fossil fuels are a huge problem and we should start lowering our CO2 emissions,” he said. “In order to start weaning off of fossil fuels and going to green energy, we need a transition energy in there somewhere, and it’s believed to be uranium. I will be in the hot spot.”

With grand plans and an exciting future on the horizon, Kasten will leave Brandon next month to begin that journey.

At the same time, there will be a tug on his heart and fond memories of his high school.

“It’s going to be a little rough, honestly,” he said. “I really like that place.”


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