Campus Life

USU Student Receives Air Force's Top Cadet Research Award

Utah State University student Jacob “Jake” Singleton is the 2013 recipient of the national Cadet Research Award from the U.S. Air Force, an honor personally approved by the Chief Scientist of the Air Force. The annual award recognizes an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet or team at the undergraduate level for outstanding accomplishments in science and technology. Only one award is given each year and its recipient is authorized to wear the Air Force Recognition Ribbon.

“I was very surprised and excited when I received word from my commander that I’d received the award,” says Singleton, a mechanical engineering major and cadet colonel in USU’s Air Force ROTC Cadet Wing, Detachment 860.

Singleton was nominated for the award by USU’s detachment commanders, who recognized the undergrad’s research efforts, which he balanced with a tough academic schedule, along with service as wing commander for USU’s AFROTC detachment, a team member on the USU Get Away Special Team’s Cube Satellite Ultraviolet-curable Boom and Control System experiment, a USU Ropes Course instructor and a College of Engineering ambassador. In the midst of successfully honoring these commitments, Singleton and his wife, fellow USU student Mandy Jones Singleton, welcomed a new daughter, their first child, last spring.

“Cadet Singleton is an outstanding leader among his peers and very deserving of this honor,” says Lt. Col. Alex Dubovik, commander of USU’s AFROTC detachment, professor and head of USU’s Department of Aerospace Studies. “This is an awesome way for Jacob to begin his Air Force career and an impressive testament to great things happening in undergraduate research at Utah State University.”

It was Dubovik who first received news of Singleton’s award, through the chain of command, from AFROTC Northwest Region commander Col. Paul Huffman.

“I was elated,” Dubovik says. “To think one of our USU AFROTC cadets won this prestigious award while competing with cadets from some of the nation’s most renowned research universities was truly admirable.”

Professor Jan Sojka, Singleton’s research mentor and head of USU’s Department of Physics, says the undergrad’s research could represent a “tipping point” in space technology.

“What Jake and his GAS teammates are exploring is very innovative,” says Sojka, advisor to USU’s GAS Team. “The cubesat’s inflatable boom design could demonstrate a way to deploy large structures in space. In addition, it demonstrates a way to achieve passive control of a satellite, which could significantly reduce the cost and weight of satellites.”

Singleton joined USU’s GAS student space research team after an unsuccessful bid two years ago to participate in a summer internship with the National Reconnaissance Office’s Advanced Technology Group in Washington, D.C.

“I didn’t have the required research experience,” says the Kaysville, Utah, native, who graduated from Davis High School in 2007. “Then I learned about the GAS team and everything started to come together. It was the perfect opportunity to get started in research and got me to where I am now.”

Singleton earned GAS Fellowships in 2012 and 2013, as well as a USU Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities “URCO” grant in fall 2012. Undaunted, he applied again for the National Reconnaissance Office summer internship and earned a spot in the six-week program for summer 2013.

During the internship, Singleton discovered the very technology he was investigating with the GAS team was once introduced, and later shelved, by the Advanced Technology Group.

“New technological developments make UV-curable designs relevant again,” he says. “I learned this is often the cycle with emerging technologies.”

At the close of his NRO internship, Singleton opened his final research presentation with the story of his initial failed attempt to enter the program and how that experience led him to the GAS Team and inspired his second application.

“The internship coordinators were very surprised and impressed with my admission,” he says. “I don’t think many, if any, applicants try again.”

Singleton received the office director’s top commendation for his presentation.

“The internship was a tremendous growth opportunity for me as a student, a researcher and a person preparing to be an Air Force officer,” says the USU senior who has been employed as a research assistant with USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory since May 2013, graduates in May 2014 and will be commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Singleton, who, incidentally, was elected “Mr. USU” during 2013 Homecoming festivities by his fellow Aggies, hopes to be accepted for graduate study at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. But until then, he’s hardly resting on his laurels.

The student’s suggested improvements for AFROTC group training (honed from his experience as a USU Ropes Course instructor) were enthusiastically received by the Air Force, which plans to share Singleton’s suggestions nationwide. The Air Force’s response was also accompanied by a request to the young cadet and his commanders to re-vamp 20 more training scenarios.

Also in the top of Singleton’s mind is the 2014 Air Force Research Laboratory’s Design Challenge, of which USU is the two-time defending national champion. The engineer is leading classmates in the design of USU’s 2014 entry and capstone senior project: a pneumatic system light enough for rescue paratroopers to carry and use to free military personnel from a besieged, 45,000-lb. armored vehicle.

“We have to win,” Singleton says. “It’s a USU tradition.”

Related links:

Contact: Lt. Col. Alex Dubovik, USAF, 435-797-8725

Contact: Jan Sojka, 435-797-2857,

Contact: Cadet Jake Singleton, 435-890-3363,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

USU student and AFROTC cadet Jake Singleton

Cadet Jake Singleton, a USU senior, is the recipient of the U.S. Air Force's Top Cadet Research Award.

USU student Jake Singleton and his mentors

Cadet Singleton, second from right, with USU faculty mentors, from left, Jan Sojka, professor and Physics Department head; Capt. Mitcheal Cooksey, assistant professor, and Lt. Col. Alex Dubovik, professor and Aerospace Studies Department head.

USU GAS tem members

Jake Singleton, left, with fellow USU GAS Team members Troy Munro and Jorden Luke, watches as the team's model cube satellite, lower right, shoots out an inflatable boom. Singleton is the recipient of the Air Force’s 2013 Cadet Research Award.


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