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Cadets, faculty recognized for research efforts

Posted 2/11/2011   Updated 2/11/2011 Email story   Print story


U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

2/11/2011 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Power for interplanetary space travel, high altitude acclimatization and cutting through the fog of war were among the Academy research works honored Feb. 4 at the 2011 Academy Research Awards Ceremony.

Over the past decade, research at the Air Force Academy has grown by leaps and bounds.

"I've got to put this in a little bit of context," said Brig. Gen. Dana Born, Dean of the Faculty. "I've been here almost 10 years, and many of you have been here longer. This particular ceremony used to be a very small, intimate affair with just a few professors. Ten years ago, we had $10 million in external funding and six research centers. Today, we have a few hundred people here for the ceremony. We are receiving more than $60 million in external funding, making us the number one undergraduate research university in the nation in terms of external funding, and we are home to 14 research centers and two Air Force institutes. Our staff and faculty are tackling real world challenges for real world customers and our Air Force."

But research isn't done for research's sake at the Academy. It must be a fundamental component to the academic side of the Academy's mission.

"Research is tightly coordinated and empirically validated with academic curriculum," said Dr. Mark Maybury, Chief Scientist of the Air Force and presenter at the awards ceremony. "Unfortunately, only four percent of Americans are scientists and engineers, yet they are the future rock stars of our economy whose innovation, research and inventions will allow America to meet the current and emerging global challenges."

The awards presented were:

Air Force Outstanding Cadet Researcher

The Air Force's top cadet researcher award went to 2nd Lt. Thomas Sukut, who is now attending graduate school at Rice University on a Draper Fellowship. The 2010 Academy graduate was cited as an outstanding astronautical engineering cadet, research and role model. As a cadet, Sukut wrote 500 lines of code to develop algorithms for the Air Force ground-based optical surveillance program for space situational awareness. The program uses ground-based signature measurements via the telescope facility at the Air Force Research Lab's Maui High Performance Computing Center. Upon his return to the academy, he quickly expanded the work, extended the lines of code to more than 1,300, and was called "the MacGyver of his class," by Col. Marty France, Permanent Professor and Head of the Department of Astronautics.

Thomas D. Moore Award for Outstanding Cadet Summer Research

This award is broken into three divisions: basic sciences, social sciences and engineering, with one overall winner.

The overall winner and engineering division winner of the Moore award is Cadet 1st Class Michael Trubilla. He developed a low-cost nuclear power option which uses readily available technology and radioactive isotopes to fuel interplanetary travel. His design can be demonstrated on a smaller scale via a small satellite, at a much lower cost than with a larger spacecraft. His work in melding thermodynamics and nuclear engineering for his nuclear power design led to a follow-on independent study to generate a conceptual design, which will be presented to the Space Experiments Review Board later this year.

The social sciences division winner of the Moore Award is Cadet 1st Class Chase Lane. He supported the Naval Postgraduate School's Graduate School of Business and Public Policy where he analyzed and summarized the entire history of research conducted under the Acquisitions Research Program in order to provide a strategic view of the program's accomplishments. That meant reviewing 580 separate acquisitions research papers which spanned seven years to produce a database to allow a comprehensive analysis of the entire history of the program across multiple dimensions, as well as offering recommendations for managing the program more efficiently moving forward. His immediate supervisor stated that his work was equivalent to a master's level thesis but executed in only one-eighth the time.

The basic sciences winner of the Moore award is Cadet 1st Class Casey Hawkins for his chemistry research in explosives binders. In technical terms, he developed, researched and executed a project overcoming problems in the fabrication of fluorinated polymers, enabling investigation of fluoropolymers as alternative oxidizers in explosive formulations. Once the project was finished, Cadet Hawkins briefed the results to AFRL, the project's sponsor, and successfully defended his explosive binder research to a seasoned group of technical experts. This led AFRL to fund follow-on research of this project for the next three years, while Cadet Hawkins continues this research this semester in a 499 class. His work is planned for publications this spring in scientific journals.

Seiler Award for basic sciences

The Frank J. Seiler Award for Faculty Research Excellence was awarded to Lt. Col. Michael Brothers.

Colonel Brothers of the Athletic Department's Human Performance Laboratory, has extensively studied how well people acclimate to high altitude for Air Force Special Operations Command. He led three major research efforts, leading a team of two dozen cadet and graduate research assistants to manage 6,000 hours of contact with 100 cadet volunteers over a year's time. His team took cadet volunteers who came to the Academy for basic training after living at sea-level and at high altitudes, and measured the changes in their blood's hemoglobin mass to determine how quickly their bodies were adjusting to the Academy's thin air, and how quickly that acclimatization could be lost by a short stay at sea-level. The team also tracked changes in the test subjects' heart rate, running economy, blood lactate levels and examined their performance on fitness tests. Other studies increased the test subjects' iron supplements and tracked the changes, and tracked the acclimatization of individuals deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

These studies have opened a new field of research, provided the Academy with more than $1 million in research equipment and supplies, and led the Department of Defense to reinstate an altitude adjustment for physical fitness tests which benefits Academy personnel and others residing at high altitude locations. The research even identified iron as an additional dietary supplement to better prepare troops deploying to high altitude locations

"So for anyone who spends time at USAFA, take your vitamins," said Dr. Maybury.

Seiler Award for engineering

The Seiler award for engineering went to Dr. Daniel Jensen, of the Department of Engineering Mechanics. Dr. Jensen's latest work has been crafting a new variety of unmanned vehicles, known as micro air vehicles, and has utilized his theory of transformational design in the process. Transformational design is a suite of concept generation techniques used to produce additional options and solutions to foster greater innovation to solve a given engineering problem. Dr. Jensen's techniques are now being used by more than a dozen major universities to enhance their engineering education, and used by Doctor Jensen to pursue his work in Micro Air Vehicles.

By their name, micro air vehicles are intended to be smaller than current unmanned vehicles and are a leap ahead in unmanned vehicle concepts. The AFRL and several other agencies are looking into MAV possibilities, and have called upon the Academy's research prowess to turn these ideas into working systems. For example, some of these MAVs take design aspects from nature to create a hybrid MAV which mimics the characteristics of a small bird. This would allow the MAV to hide in plain sight much like a bird sitting on a rooftop, stretching the MAV's mission length because of the low power usage when it roosts, and also providing extended periods of continual coverage of a target area with a literal birds-eye view.

McDermott Award

The McDermott Award for Faculty Research Excellence in Humanities and Social Sciences went to Dr. R. Jeffrey Jackson of the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership, who accepted the award with a vocal cadet cheering section offering their support.

Doctor Jackson had seven peer-reviewed articles published in the last year, gave five presentations at peer-reviewed venues to national and international audiences, taught three courses in the AOC masters program, and authored one book chapter on leadership competencies for leading in harm's way.

On the research side, Dr. Jackson conducted several projects, including in-depth analyses of the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership, as well as the AOC Master's program, and the Army National Guard.

IITA Research Award for 2010

The Institute for Information Technology Applications research award was presented for innovation in visually enhanced decision-making for two projects: Warfighter's Edge and the Joint Installation Picture for Command and Control. The team of Lt. Col. Andy Berry, Lt. Col. Nick Volpe, Tim Beerman, Joe Pasqualini and Robert Stansauk provide commanders a way to cut through the fog of war with these two programs which allow unparalleled situational awareness to operational commanders. The programs are stand-alone customized net-centric three-dimensional Google Earth applications that leverage and integrate geospatial and dynamic geo-referenced data to create a real time-common operating picture. These programs have been deployed to active duty Air Force and Air National Guard locations.

Linhard Outstanding INSS Researcher Award

This year's INSS Linhard Award was presented to Dr. Stephen F. Burgess, Department of International Security at the Air War College, for his work on emerging and enduring security issues in Africa and South Asia. This insightful work on a series of significant and timely strategic topics, including issues of nuclear cooperation and on critical environmental security and sustainability issues, has earned praise from across the policy community, including from senior staff leaders of both the Air Force and Army as well as the Department of Defense, and it represents well-founded recommendations for security planning and partnership. INSS has published this work as occasional papers and as part of its "Research Reports" series.

INSS Outstanding USAFA Researcher

The Institute for National Strategic Studies Outstanding Academy Researcher award went to Dr. Damon Coletta of the Department of Political Science, for his work on "Science, Technology, and the Quest for International Influence." This work details the importance of maintaining leadership in basic science as key to America's soft power and our ability to retain influence in the international community. As our political system and values place high demands on the relationship between science, state and society, it is difficult to strike the optimal balance between applied activities and fundamental research that establishes science leadership. This paper presents case studies that illustrate these issues. The paper was published as an INSS "Research Paper" and distributed to the government policy community and to both military and civilian academic institutions.

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