AEROSPACE ENGINEERING STUDENT
WINS NATIONAL COMPETITION
Aerospace engineering major Anthony "Joe" Vinciquerra 00 is doing his part to improve aircraft safety. He has developed a method to predict when composite materialswhich are often used in manufacturing airplane wings and helicopter rotor bladeswill fracture.
The efforts of this DeWitt, New York, native have drawn accolades from the aerospace engineering community. He won the undergraduate division of the National Student Paper Competition at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aerospace Sciences Meeting last January in Reno, Nevada. It was the second time in five years that an SU student, advised by mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Barry Davidson, had won the award. "Joe is an outstanding student, and he is extremely motivated," says Davidson, a Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence. "He spent an incredible amount of time testing his method and has made a big contribution to the area of composite materials."
In his research, Vinciquerra, who won the AIAA Region I competition to advance to the nationals, developed test methods to predict when and how composite structures used in the aerospace industry will fail during a long service life. Since composite materials are made of embedded fibers in an epoxy matrix, their failure is difficult to predict.
Thats where Vinciquerras research comes in. Two primary test methods are used to cause cracks to grow in composite test specimens in manners similar to those observed in typical aircraft applications.
Both tests use a small sample of composite material with a pre-existing crack and a hydraulic testing machine that applies a load at a rate of 6 to 10 cycles per second. In one test, the specimen is held so that the load is applied perpendicular to the direction of the crack. In the other test, the specimen is held so that the load is applied parallel to the direction of crack growth. In both tests, the goal is to determine the number of cycles, at a given applied load, required to make the crack spread.
At the onset of the project, Vinciquerra was interested in composite materials, but didnt understand the magnitude of his research. As he worked with Davidson and did outside research, however, the importance of the project became clear. "I realized, Wow! This is a big deal," says Vinciquerra, who began the research during his junior year. "The results are substantial because they help define a new methodology for determining when composite materials will fail. This is important because there currently is no standardized test method."
Consequently, Vinciquerras methods will likely contribute to the final method for standardized testing of composites. The recognition will benefit Vinciquerra and the program, Davidson says. "Its reflective of the quality of the program and the emphasis placed on undergraduate research."