Strengthening Community

From the classroom to the tarmac

The National Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Design Competition for Universities draws some of the top aeronautical and aviation colleges and programs in the nation, yet, for the past three years, computer science students in Binghamton University's Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science have come out on top.

The technical design competition invites undergraduate and graduate students to tackle airport issues related to airport operation and maintenance, runway safety/runway incursions, airport environmental interactions, and airport management and planning. It's essentially a writing exercise in which students must develop a 70-page design proposal in only 14 weeks — while learning valuable lessons in management structure, team decision making and problem solving.

The students don't have to build their designs, but they do have to explain them well. So, they've teamed up with industry professionals from the Greater Binghamton Airport (GBA) and McFarland-Johnson, Inc., a leading engineering firm headquartered in Binghamton, to get critical aviation-industry insight and engineering guidance.

And the 2009 winning design — installation of a radiant geothermal heating prototype in the GBA airfield apron (the area where passengers and cargo load) — has received funding.

The FAA Research Grant program has awarded $374,000 to the Southern Tier Economic Partnership (STEP), a countywide economic development organization — in collaboration with Binghamton University and other local organizations — to fund the first phase of a $1.4 million project at the airport.

"This project began as a classroom exercise and has turned into a once-in-a-lifetime partnership between the students of Binghamton University and a number of local government and economic development entities," said William Ziegler '76, associate professor of computer science. "For our students to see their project come to fruition as a construction project that could benefit the entire aviation industry is truly astounding, and I am certainly proud to be part of the experience."

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Serving her country and community

Casondra Hamilton, MPA '11 has a runner's physique and an easy smile that belie a quiet determination that helped her execute a military tour of duty and battle a life-threatening disease.

Hamilton joined the Navy in May 2001, serving as a radar systems technician on F-18 fighter jets in several parts of the world. Seeing poverty up close and participating in post-tsunami relief efforts in South Asia in 2004 had a profound affect on her, and Hamilton decided to pursue a career in public service once she completed her tour.

Following the Navy, she gained an undergraduate degree in public relations in 2007. Then, she mysteriously started losing weight. By the time Hamilton was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, 30 pounds had been torn from her slight frame and she had become so dehydrated she nearly lost her eyesight. In addition to the physical strain was a financial one — the cost of extensive testing and treatments had drained her finances and threatened her future studies.

With one year of funding remaining on her GI Bill, she enrolled in Binghamton's master's of public administration program in 2010. She completed as much of the coursework as possible, but ran out of money and was uncertain how she would pay for the final semester.

Her hard work paid for it. An outstanding student with a 3.9 grade-point average who volunteers for several organizations, Hamilton was awarded the Axtell Promise Scholarship, which partners recipients with a local nonprofit organization. She was partnered with the Community Foundation of South Central New York.

"Being awarded this scholarship makes me feel like others have faith in the things I do and the work I'll do after I leave the program," she says.

For Hamilton, that work will be helping nonprofits in the Southern Tier.

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Last Updated: 10/31/16