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MAE alum Robert Crumpacker wins Air Force Cadet Research Award

Robert O. CrumpackerRobert O. Crumpacker

Throughout his time at Ohio State, Robert O. Crumpacker (’16 Aerospace Engineering) made every effort to find answers to the problems that keep aerospace engineers up at night. Last year, he was honored by the Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force for his leadership and research in the area of engine inlet design for remotely piloted aircraft and his impact on the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Crumpacker was awarded the prestigious 2016 Air Force Cadet Research Award. This award, presented annually to one Air Force cadet, recognizes research that has the most impact on the Air Force’s mission to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. The Chief Scientist selects the winner from a pool of nominees submitted by Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs across the nation.

Crumpacker was recognized for his outstanding leadership of a five-member team on the “Design of a Modular Vortex Tube Engine Air Particle Separator for the MQ-1 UAV Utilizing Additive Manufacturing Technologies” project. His research was sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory and published at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) SciTech Conference in January. The MQ-1 Predator, which Crumpacker’s research explores, uses an inlet barrier filter to prevent foreign debris from entering the engine, in a manner similar to a car’s air filter. An inertial air particle separator can replace this barrier filter while extending engine life and maintenance cycles.

Robert O. Crumpacker (second from right) with his research project team. L-R: Kellen Seaman, Mike Mooibroek, Joey Mccormack, Crumpacker and Jake Shoemaker Robert O. Crumpacker (second from right) with his research project team. L-R: Kellen Seaman, Mike Mooibroek, Joey Mccormack, Crumpacker and Jake Shoemaker His project has helped further the Air Force’s understanding of the interaction between sand and dust particles and vortex tube geometry. Crumpacker and his team designed a full scale, low-cost prototype of an MQ-1 modular engine air separator. Their design could  improve the aerial vehicle’s performance and reduce maintenance costs. Moreover, the project laid the foundation for additional research to be carried out by future capstone teams.

During the 2016-17 academic year, Crumpacker served as a technical advisor and mentor for the capstone student group that aimed to further his research. Clifford Whitfield, assistant professor of practice, served as the supervisor for these efforts.

In addition to his leadership and technical achievement at Ohio State, Crumpacker worked for the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) program for three summers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. As an intern, he led teams of high school seniors in designing mission architecture for space exploration and return missions to Mars. His areas of focus included entry descent and landing; launch and transit vehicles; propulsion systems; radiation protection; and orbital maneuvers. Additionally, Crumpacker proposed and conducted an experiment to study the survivability of yeast colonies in a near-space environment, which was launched as part of the Cubes in Space program on NASA’s Rad-X/RB1 mission.

“The skills that I learned as an aerospace engineering major as well as the knowledge gained in the nuclear engineering minor program were of tremendous benefit in helping me motivate more than 540 rising high school seniors participating in VASTS to pursue STEM degrees,” said Crumpacker.   

“Robert’s professionalism, hard work and overall ability leaves no doubt that he will continue to be a valuable advisor to future generations of engineers and others,” added Whitfield.

While at Ohio State, Crumpacker served in numerous leadership positions within the Air Force ROTC Detachment 645, including as joint programs squadron commander and mission support group commander. He also received the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s 2016 Aerospace Engineering Top Senior Academic Award.

Today, Second Lieutenant Crumpacker is on active duty with the Air Force. This Buckeye has even found himself once again in Columbus – this time in Columbus, Mississippi – as he attends Undergraduate Pilot Training at the Columbus Air Force Base. He is currently flying the T-6 Texan aircraft in a curriculum that includes visual and instrument flight as well as aerobatics and formation. He previously finished his initial flight training in Pueblo, Colorado, where he completed his solo flight and learned basic Visual Flight Rules (VFR), aeronautical skills and maneuvers in the Diamond DA-20 aircraft.

He aspires to fly the H-60 Pave Hawk helicopter one day as a combat rescue pilot. 

Crumpacker humbly shares the credit for his outstanding research project.

He recognized his MAE teammates Joey McCormack, Mike Mooibroek, Kellen Seaman and Jake Shoemaker for their assistance and contributions. He also thanked his faculty advisors, Whitfield and Associate Chair Jeffrey Bons, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, for their guidance throughout the project.


- Kam King, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering