Education

CENTER PROVIDES GUIDENCE FOR PARENTS
OF YOURTH CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES

schmitt shoots!!
Apter
Dianne Apter has guided the Early Childhood Direction Center since its founding 20 years ago.
As director of the Early Childhood Direction Center (ECDC), Dianne Apter helps children with disabilities and their families succeed in a world that isn’t always sensitive to their needs. Above all, Apter wants these families to learn that a child with a disability has all the rights and opportunities of any child. "We always say, ‘Remember, Johnny is still Johnny,’" Apter says. "He may be Johnny with cerebral palsy, but he’s still a child."

The center, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, is part of the School of Education’s Center on Human Policy, which promotes the integration of people with disabilities into the community. ECDC gives free, confidential advice to residents of a 9-county region on services for newborns and children up to age 5 who have or may have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. "They don’t teach you how to deal with things like disabilities in parenting class," says Apter, director of ECDC since its founding. "We try to be a guide in the maze."

Over time, changes in medicine and society have significantly affected how ECDC operates. "It’s easier now than when we started because people understand how we work and what we do," Apter says. "What’s harder now is assuring that the services children receive continue to be of high quality."

To be effective in her work, Apter performs multiple roles. As a legal advocate, she monitors legislation affecting young children with special needs. As a counselor, she advises parents and professionals on schooling and medical options. She tries to assess parents’ needs, listening and supporting them like a friend. Some parents find it devastating dealing with their child’s special needs, and lose confidence in their parenting skills. Apter aims to change those feelings. "You watch them start to look at their child as a child, instead of a package of problems," Apter says. "It can be difficult for the parents because the rest of the world is telling them about all the problems and all the things that are wrong."

Apter credits ECDC staffers for their influential work. "In addition to their considerable professional expertise, three of our staff members are parents of children with special needs," she says. "This fact contributes immeasurably to our effectiveness."

In the future, Apter will concentrate on training educators to work in classrooms that include children with disabilities. She also hopes to monitor the treatment of these children, ensuring they are treated like their peers. "Our role is to make the system work for students and parents," she says.                                                                           —STACEY FELSEN

Engineering_and_Computer_Science

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 materials–which are often used in manufacturing airplane wings and helicopter rotor blades–will 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.

That’s where Vinciquerra’s 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 didn’t 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, Vinciquerra’s methods will likely contribute to the final method for standardized testing of composites. The recognition will benefit Vinciquerra and the program, Davidson says. "It’s reflective of the quality of the program and the emphasis placed on undergraduate research."
                                                                                                                                              —JOHNATHAN HAY



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