NASA Engineer Leaves a Legacy with STARS

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Ribbon-cutting ceremony by Tampa Bay nonprofit launches new program that will offer technology and hands-on training for people with aphasia.

Daniella Muheim

This amazing woman has left a legacy to help the 2 million people in the United States who live with aphasia - a language impairment due to stroke.

Voices of Hope for Aphasia invites the community to celebrate National Aphasia Awareness Month this June with a ribbon-cutting for the official launch of the Danniella Muheim STARS Program. The event will include demonstration stations where attendees will be able to see the technologies that people with aphasia can use to support reintroduction to meaningful activities.

From small-town Canada to the stars.

Danniella Muheim was born in a small Manitoba town of about 10,000 people, just northeast of Winnipeg. Gifted and driven, she eventually earned a Master of Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech and was awarded a prestigious Amelia Earhart Fellowship by Zonta International.

In 1996, Dannie joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), later helping to build the James Webb Space Telescope – a space-based observatory (launching in October 2018) that will have better sensitivity and cover longer lightwaves than Hubble. Muheim led a team at Goddard Space Flight Center that analyzed the JWST’s function, structure, and design.

Sadly, in 2012, at the age of 46, Danniella suffered a stroke. As an extrovert with many friends, one of her most devastating symptoms was aphasia – an impairment that makes it difficult both for people to convey and understand language. Danniella did not allow her condition to sideline her, though, returning to part-time work at NASA in 2014. She was also passionately committed to supporting and educating others as an active member of Voices of Hope for Aphasia. Dannie passed away in November 2015, but her mission to help, inspire, and inform people with aphasia lives on through VOHA’s STARS Program – launched by her generous bequest.

“Partnering with her husband Des, we wanted to honor her spirit, her background, and her intention to help people with aphasia, through technology.” said VOHA Board Member Debbie Yones, M.S., CCC-SLP. “She was an incredibly motivating and passionate woman.”

Ribbon-cutting launches STARS for people with aphasia

The ongoing STARS Program, available to the local community, provides technological support and hands-on training for people with aphasia and their families, within fun and social settings.

“People with aphasia may have difficulty learning to use technical devices through typical avenues,” said VOHA Executive Director Jackie Hinckley Ph.D, CCC-SLP. “Even though much of technology is hands-on, learning how to use certain tools is often reliant on written or oral language.”

The four STARS Modules are the Explorer Lab (one-on-one technological training), Mission Training (group learning and tool-sharing sessions), Launch Programs (community outings), and TELE:SCOPE Grants (funding to purchase assistive devices).

The STARS Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, free and open to the public, will occur Wednesday, June 28, 10:30-11:30 a.m, at the Sunshine Center in St. Petersburg (330 5th Street North, 33701).

To learn more, please call Jackie Hinckley at (727) 249-1953, or email Jackie@vohaphasia.org. Voices of Hope for Aphasia is a registered 501(C)(3) nonprofit and the only community-based aphasia organization in West Florida for people living with aphasia and their families.

Additional Resources:

The Danniella Muheim STARS Program: http://www.vohaphasia.org/aphasia-programs/stars/
Muheim’s Obituary (Baltimore Sun; November 8, 2015): http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/baltimoresun/obituary.aspx?pid=176398560
James Webb Space Telescope (Muheim’s project): https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/
Amelia Earhart Fellowship (awarded to Muheim): https://www.zonta.org/Global-Impact/Education/Amelia-Earhart-Fellowship

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Jackie Hinckley
@VOHAphasia
since: 08/2014
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