Vertical Flight Foundation Scholarships

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Kevin Jacobson

Georgia Institute of Technology

Kevin Jacobson completed his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in spring of 2013. In the fall of 2013, he joined Dr. Marilyn Smith’s Nonlinear Computational Aeroelasticity Lab as a doctoral candidate, where he’s worked on projects including numerical experiments to study the physics of dynamic stall, reverse flow, and hub aerodynamics; development of aeroelastic coupling interfaces for rotorcraft and wind turbine applications; and hybrid CFD-free-wake models for rotorcraft analysis. In January of 2015, he began working under the co-advisement of Dr. Graeme Kennedy developing an adjoint-enabled framework for aeroelastic design optimization of aircraft.
Kevin has been an author on 6 conference papers: 2 AIAA SciTech papers, and one at each of the AHS forum, AHS Aeromechanics Specialists Conference, the European Rotorcraft Forum, and Rotorcraft Virtual Engineering Conference. He is an author on two journal papers: one accepted in the AIAA Journal and one under review for the Aeronautical Journal. He was the team leader for Georgia Tech’s graduate team for the 2016 AHS Student Design Competition which placed second. He was also the winner of the 2015 AHS Southern Region Robert L. Lichten Award.

How did you get interested in vertical flight?

"I've always enjoyed problem solving, and I love the problem solving aspects of developing code. In my last semester as an undergraduate, I took aeroelasticity from Dr. Smith and liked both the structural and aerodynamic aspects. It seemed like a natural fit to join Dr. Smith's computational aeroelasticity lab.
One project that I've worked on is reverse flow dynamic stall. Reverse flow dynamic stall becomes important at high forward speeds; however, little is known about the physics of the phenomenon. The goal of the work increase our understanding. We performed 'numerical experiments' using CFD methods, and our collaborators, Dr. Anya Jones' group at the University of Maryland performed experiments. By using the combination of CFD and experiments, we were able to identify some features of reverse flow dynamic stall.
Another project that I've worked on in the Nonlinear Computational Aeroelasticity lab is the development of a hybrid CFD-free-wake tool for rotorcraft analysis. The hybrid tool uses CFD near the bodies and a free wake tool, CHARM from CDI, to model the flow field beyond the CFD domain. This model lowers the cost of high fidelity analysis by reducing the CFD mesh size. This project began as the PhD thesis of one of my former labmate, Nicolas Reveles. I continued the project and added non-contiguous grid capability, which further reduces the computational cost by allowing the CFD grids to be even smaller. In 2014, I won the Southern region AHS Lichten competition with my work on non-contiguous grids in our hybrid solver."

What impact has receiving the VFF scholarship had for you?

"Participation in AHS has been a significant part of my time in graduate school: I've been an officer for our local student chapter; I've participated in the Lichten competition and the student design competition; I've been to the AHS Forum twice (once as a VFF winner and once as a VFF winner and paper presenter) which has allowed me learn more about what others are doing in the field and network. All of these have given me experience outside the classroom, which I think will be very valuable after finishing school, when I hope to continue to contribute to the rotorcraft field.
In addition to the experience, the VFF scholarship has helped me pay for school fees and books. I used some of the money to buy a new laptop too."

What are some of your current projects or research interests?

"My current project is the development of a framework for high fidelity (FEM+CFD) aeroelastic analysis and design which we call FUNtoFEM. Our lab is teamed with Dr. Graeme Kennedy from the structural and multidisciplinary optimization (SMDO) lab at Georgia Tech, who is the principle investigator for the project. The FUNtoFEM framework includes adjoint capability, which allows for efficient gradient-based optimization. We've developed our framework to be general so it can be applicable in many aeroelastic design problems, including rotorcraft. Efficient adjoint-based optimization allows for us to determine many design variables (100s to 1000+) for aeroelastic design problems. The design variables can include aerodynamic variables, structural properties, geometric shape variables and potentially many more. In the future, we hope to use this framework to optimize under flutter constraints and other aeroelastic considerations in order to create optimized aerospace vehicles."

Tell us about your future plans.

I am hoping to graduate sometime in the coming spring. [Ed.: Spring 2018] I am hoping to continue doing research related to computational aeroelastic analysis and design.

What do Kevin's mentors have to say?

"Kevin is truly a Renaissance man, able to navigate across theory, experimental, and computational methods with ease. He is a stellar example of how the VFF scholarship has enabled the rotorcraft community to recruit one of the best and brightest. He shows great enthusiasm for fluid and structural mechanics problems, which, coupled with his innate talents in mathematics and programming, have led to significant advancements in the design and analysis of complex rotorcraft numerical tools."

Prof. Marilyn Smith
Georgia Institute of Technology

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