PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University engineering teacher, Clayton Crowe, has been named “Engineer of the Year” for the Inland Empire Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Crowe was chosen because of his lifetime achievement in mechanical engineering education and research, and his recent publishing of books about fluid mechanics, say the ASME officers.
He is a Fellow in ASME, and won its prestigious Fluids Engineering Award in 1995. He also received the 1996 Teaching Excellence Award from the WSU College of Engineering and Architecture. His field is mechanical engineering, his subject is fluid mechanics, and his expertise is multiphase flow with particles and droplets.
Crowe’s teaching repertoire includes plenty of humor, hands-on demonstrations and a bag of tricks to illustrate physical principles: soap bubbles, BBs, a rubber-band airplane, a windmill, a toy rocket motor, a card-pin-and-spool experiment, and a 16-ounce funnel with restricted mouth are right next to his desk.
His knack of turning the technically abstract into essential and laughable ideas saves many a student from being sucked into the vortex of oblivion.
“Fluid flow is part of our everyday lives,” says the master, “when we turn on the kitchen faucet, drive a car, or get high blood pressure!”
His “multiphase flow with particles and droplets” specialty — about which he has just published a graduate-level tome — applies to such systems as fire sprinklers, spray painting, drying foods, processing powdered milk and detergents, and efficient air-circulation systems or rocket engines.
On the 64-year-old’s office door, which always is open, is posted: “Old age and trickery will overcome youth and ambition.” Displayed outside are cartoons — many of which are caricatures of Crowe drawn by his cartoonist son, Chad. The Red Skelton hair, nerd pencil pocket and lower jaw thrust are unmistakably “Crowish.”
Crowe admits he’ll go to almost any length to gain the interest of students, from assigning a “Student for the Day,” to awarding pizza or t-shirts to contest winners, to captivating them with stories and showing visuals and experiments, to randomly engaging them in class dialogue — especially when he notices one drifting.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1956 from the University of Washington, his master’s in 1957 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his doctorate in 1962 from the University of Michigan. He’s been teaching at WSU for 30+ years and has an international reputation for establishing standards in his field, such as “Crowe’s Drag Law” in the rocket industry, the trajectory approach to gas-droplet flow, and design applications for spray drying and other process equipment.
A textbook he co-authored with WSU colleague John Roberson now is in its sixth edition, and has laid the foundations for more than 140,000 engineering students over the past two decades. It’s the second most popular book of its kind in the U.S.
“We just believe Professor Crowe is about as respected in his field as engineers come,” said Jed Dennler, chair of the IE ASME chapter. “He published the graduate-level book about multi-phase flow this year, and the undergraduate text a year ago, is active with the student ASME group, interfaces with industry continually, and is well-thought of by students.”

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Crowe may be reached at 509/335-3214, crowe@mme.wsu.edu; ASME chapter chair Jed Dennler at 509/922-0827, jdennler@aol.com.