Robert Parker, the L.S. Randolph Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, is the recipient of the 2015 American Society of Mechanical Engineers' N.O. Myklestad Award for "innovative contributions to vibration engineering and research" throughout his career. The award was presented Monday, Aug. 3, at ASME's Design Engineering Technical Conference, where Parker also gave the Myklestad Plenary Lecture.

Parker is an "expert on the vibration of high-speed power transmissions such as geared and belt-pulley systems," wrote his nominator, Kon-Well Wang, chair of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Wang added that Parker's new research has "provided insight and new tools such that some of the critical and unsolved issues in gear vibration and noise can now be easily resolved."

A gear is a rotating machine part that turns in sync with another machine part and transmits torque, generally defined as the measure of the turning force of an object. Over the course of history, gears were essential in the introduction of mechanical clocks to grinding mills to bicycles.

Today, multiple advanced industries representing work on diverse fields such as the development of aircraft engines to wind turbines to automotive parts have the need for improved vibration and stability behaviors of gear dynamics. Parker's mathematical and computational models have been adopted in several industries. His research papers on gear vibrations are well cited in the academic literature.

Parker's achievements include the assembling of a "state-of-the-art test stand, fixtures, and gearing to produce the only data measuring the operating condition vibration of all the internal components of planetary gears," Wang wrote in his nomination.

Planetary gears consist of one or more outer gears revolving around a central or sun gear. They can be found in airplane engines, as well as cars, helicopters, and even bicycle wheels.

Parker was the first to identify planetary gears' highly structured modal properties and explain the sensitivity of vibration properties to system parameters -- a concept that has been widely used by industry to troubleshoot resonance problems, Wang wrote.

The award also reflects Parker's work on how to minimize vibration, a technique credited with solving a major vibration problem threatening the existence of a wind turbine company in New Zealand. His technique was then adopted in the automotive and helicopter industries.

Another example of Parker's success was a massive reduction in engine noise in Ford and Volvo's products. In fact, with Parker's technique, Ford did not have to cancel a major engine program. As a result, Ford honored Parker with its Ford Chief Engineer Award, an honor rarely bestowed on anyone not directly employed by the industry.

Parker recently received the 2015 Doak Prize (most successful paper of the past five years) from the Journal of Sound and Vibration for his research on instabilities in high-speed planetary gears inside the likes of airplane engines. A Fellow of the ASME and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Parker directs Virginia Tech's Dynamics and Vibrations Laboratory.

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