Robert “Bob” Walker was born and raised in eastern Ohio, the third of five children. During childhood, he often accompanied his father to coal processing plant construction sites, helped in the family hardware store, and enjoyed family hunting trips. He graduated from Adena High School in 1964 where he played the trumpet, basketball, and football.
He attended The Ohio State University for one year, and became a lifelong OSU football fan. After that year, he received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) where he dreamed of becoming an Air Force pilot. At the Academy, he came to faith in Christ through the Navigator’s Christian ministry, and remained involved with the Navigators for some years following. At the Academy, Bob found the survival training and the paratrooper training at Ft Benning, Georgia memorable. Despite not having the eyesight to become a pilot, he turned his love for aeronautics to engineering. He graduated in June of 1969 with a bachelor’s (BS) degree, majoring in mathematics, and aeronautics and astronautics.
For his first Air Force assignment, he was selected for a master’s degree program at Purdue University, receiving his MS in aeronautics and astronautics in 1970, where his principal technical areas were in “control of systems,” i.e., regulating a system by “cancelling” errors, and “system identification (SI).” SI compares an assumed model’s response to the actual measured response, and then revises the model, mathematically. After Purdue, as an Air Force officer, he guided civilian companies by defining USAF goals for surveillance satellites.
He chose to leave the Air Force and joined Systems Control, Inc. in 1974. There he co-authored the first paper on estimating, with SI, the aerodynamics of a re-entry vehicle (RV) with particularly complex stabilization. Subsequently, he was recommended for a doctoral program at Stanford University and received his PhD in aeronautics and astronautics in 1981 under Professor Arthur Bryson. After leaving Stanford, Bob joined Integrated Systems, Inc. as a research scientist and manager, where he was successful in writing winning proposals for a number of government projects. In 1983, he received the award, “Outstanding Achievement, SF Bay Area Chapter of IEEE Control Systems Society,” for control design software; the controls software Bob had developed at Stanford. A noteworthy project, was his and a colleague’s control of a pilot’s ejection above 40,000 feet, where historically only 5% survive. The control problem was to minimize the distention of a pilot’s internal organs (modeled as a soft spring/mass system with his bones treated as part of the chair), by keeping the huge drag force perpendicular to chair back and through the pilot’s pelvis. Otherwise, the drag force flashes through every angle/ position of the pilot’s body as the seat tumbles, ripping loose the organs. The solution concept used a rear array of small linear rockets, rather than the current relatively slow steerable thruster. The two engineers’ optimal control chose when and which “firecracker” was to fire. With impulses, applied in less than a millisecond, 95% of the pilots could walk away (Based on USAF Human Factors charts).
In 1987 Bob left ISI to take a position as program manager of high-speed processing at the FMC Corporate Technology Center (CTC). CTC efforts resulted in two patents, one with a team designing an autonomous ordnance carrier, and the second with a co-worker, using airborne image processing tools for gold exploration. In 1997 he joined the Dynamics and Control Department at the Lockheed Martin (LM) Lab, where he led accuracy aspects of two next generation satellites: 1) a $4.3B weather bid, and 2) a USAF missile launch detection early warning system. In 2011 Bob consulted with Novariant, Inc, who build precision farming products (which combine GPS and instruments on the tractor) to control their implement’s location.
Bob was married to Dorothy Walker for 34 years, and they raised their three children in Sunnyvale, CA. Both Bob and Dorothy were very involved in their church, Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, teaching Sunday school and in various small groups. Bob was a grateful and faithful congregant there for 50 years. Bob loved studying technical engineering & mathematical topics, he loved his Savior, his family, going on walks, drinking Diet Coke, and enjoying good ice cream.
Bob died on January 6, 2023 after a short illness. He was 76. He is preceded in death by his parents Robert and Marian Walker, and his sister, Frances “Ann” Walker. He is survived by siblings Elizabeth “Betty” Campbell, David Walker (wife Bobbi), and Janet Walker (wife Kathy), daughter Beth Todd (husband Peter), sons Rob Walker and Mark Walker (wife Alison), granddaughters Abigail and Esther Todd and Lydia Walker, grandson Luke Walker, nieces Kristin and Michelle Campbell and Mari Walker, nephew Scott Campbell, and grand-niece Ayanna Nimrod.
A funeral service will be held March 18 at 11 AM at Covenant Presbyterian, 49319 US Route 250, Harrisville, Ohio. Family visitation at Covenant at 10 AM. Interment following the service at the Quaker Hicksite Cemetery, Emerson, Ohio with Military Honors provided by the Adena American Legion Post #525. In lieu of flowers, donations in his honor can be made to World Vision or the Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center at the VA.
The family is being assisted by Borkoski Funeral Home, 60 South Bridge Street, Adena, Ohio. Offer online condolences at www.borkoskifuneral.com
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