3 ASU graduate students get chance at $10K for creating infant development kits

Two projects from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics selected as finalists for Halle Foundation prize

July 17, 2017

Three graduate students from Arizona State University’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics have been selected as finalists for the Infant Development Prize from the Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation for their projects that will aid in the development of young children.

The three students represent two sets of finalists: A team consisting of family and human development doctoral students Bobbi Bromich and Kenton Woods, as well as marriage and family therapy master’s student Eric Henley, who submitted a solo project. Picture of infant growing in stages Photo from iStockphoto.com

The Infant Development Prize competition challenged applicants to create a container comprising a set of materials that would “best promote the intellectual and psychosocial advancement, health, and physical progression of children aged 0 to 36 months old,” as decided by a panel of foundation representatives and subject matter experts.

The sets of materials could not cost more than $125 and needed to target a user audience of parents and childcare providers. The incentive for developing an innovative product? The winner of the prize — announced July 28 — will receive $10,000.

The box developed by Bromich and Woods contains resources for the development of children ages 0–3. Together, parents and children can use the items to develop children’s socio-emotional, physical, and intellectual skills to ensure success in a changing world.

Potrait of Bobbi Bromich
Bobbi Bromich, family and human development doctoral student

“We feel very excited and honored to be chosen as finalists,” Bromich said. “It is especially exciting to be able to take the ideas from our proposal and turn them into reality by being able to create a prototype of our infant and toddler development box.”

The team intentionally filled its box with items chosen for their longevity; the items can adapt as children grow and their developmental needs become more complex.

Profile of Kenton Woods
Kenton Woods, family and human development doctoral student

“It's exciting to be finalists, because we can see that our efforts to make impactful change in the community are coming to fruition,” Woods said. “After hours and hours of hard work and dedication, being recognized as finalists for this contest is something our team could have only dreamt of at the start of this process.”

Henley submitted a Toddler and Infant Parent Kit (TIP Kit), which offers new families multiple ways to build, connect and nurture the vital attachments needed for children’s healthy emotional, social, physical, mental and linguistic development.

The kit helps parents monitor their children’s development so that they can detect any potential issues and access necessary resources in a timely manner.

Profile of Eric Henley
Eric Henley, family therapy master’s student

Henley appreciated the opportunity to use his academic training to create a tangible resource for parents and children.

Henley designed the kit with consideration for diverse socioeconomic strata, and so the kit does not require any electronic or technical means for effective implementation.

“I'm honored to have the opportunity to represent my school and ASU,” he said. “To have my proposal considered a finalist in something that has the potential to impact families in the earliest days of development is exciting.”

“It’s been fun [...] applying creative and innovative ideas to make what we know from research more accessible to the front-line culture changers: the family unit,” Henley said.

John Keeney

Communications Manager, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics


ASU engineer seeks to develop better plastics, faster

July 17, 2017

Plastics are everywhere. They’re relatively strong, inexpensive, easy to manufacture and generally resistant to water and other chemicals.

Plastic polymer fibers can exceed high-strength steel in strength-to-weight ratios, and they can get even better, says Jay Oswald, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. That is, if we can get around limitations in the materials development process. Portrait of Jay Oswald Jay Oswald, assistant professor of mechanical engineering Download Full Image

“The rate at which we can make these improvements is limited by the current understanding of the relationships linking the chemistry, processing, structure and physical properties of plastics,” Oswald says.

Current methods take an empirical approach, with progress in discovering improved chemistry and material processes taking 10 to 20 years.

Oswald is developing models to overcome these roadblocks to progress as part of a five-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award project, “Novel Coarse-Grained Simulations to Study Relationships Linking Morphology and Plastic Resistance in Semi-Crystalline Polymers.”

“We are developing new models that take into consideration the arrangement of the long-chain molecules that make up polymers to build a new understanding of how the small structural details of these materials affects their engineering properties, such as strength and toughness, thus allowing for rapid, computer-guided design of better plastics,” said Oswald, a faculty member in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the six Fulton Schools.

Presently, simulations for molecular details only take into account billionths of a second and billionths of a meter, limiting them to very few applications. Oswald is finding ways to increase the scope of these simulations.

“We are developing new ways to combine and condense information from very detailed, fine-scale simulations into models that are orders of magnitude more computationally efficient in order to connect how details at the molecular scale influence properties of plastics at time and length scales relevant to many practical engineering problems, such as making cars safer or improving protective gear for police and military forces,” Oswald said.

The capabilities of Oswald’s research group are further extended by the opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary research from ASU and the Fulton Schools.

“ASU’s commitment to investing in research infrastructure, especially high-performance computing, is instrumental in making this research possible,” Oswald said.

Advancing the capabilities of plastics is an area of research with much to be gained in knowledge, job growth and revenue for industry.

“The plastics industry is one of the few sectors in the United States' economy that enjoys a trade surplus,” Oswald said. “However, to remain competitive, the country must maintain its scientific leadership in polymer science, which entails promoting scientific discovery of new knowledge, developing innovative approaches to designing better materials, and maintaining a pipeline to feed the plastics industry with highly trained engineers and scientists.”

His NSF CAREER Award-funded research will combine the important research in polymer science with educational and outreach efforts to enable the nation to meet its workforce needs.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering