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Makers Club Helping Turn Student Ideas Into Reality

Makers club president Chase Cumbelich, from left, freshman Riley Toll, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering Chad Duty and senior Alex Weber show some of the 3D printed limbs that the club has made.

Makers club president Chase Cumbelich, from left, freshman Riley Toll, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace and biomedical engineering Chad Duty and senior Alex Weber show some of the 3D printed limbs that the club has made.

A recently formed club at UT has provided students with an outlet to bring their ideas to life via a mix of traditional and cutting-edge manufacturing methods.

The Makers Club began last semester with the goal of bringing together students and faculty interested in the makers movement, a group united by the idea of people learning and maintaining practical skills that were once common but are now in danger of being lost—such as welding—and to developing skills in cutting-edge techniques such as 3D printing.

The Makers Club focus on turning ideas into reality is attracting students from various majors across campus.

“It started because of an idea we had in class,” said Chase Cumbelich, a junior from Ooltewah, Tennessee, majoring in electrical engineering, who helped found the club. “We kept hitting a wall while we were trying to develop something, and we realized our lack of contact and knowledge with other majors was really hampering us.

“We reached out across the college and got about 30 people interested, and the club just kind of snowballed from there.”

Now that club is changing the life of a classmate.

Some of the 3D printed parts that make up a synthetic arm.

Some of the 3D printed parts that make up a synthetic arm.

One of the first things the group was able to produce was a 3D-printed hand, developed with other engineering students.

At a group meeting, the question was raised whether anyone knew of someone who might be in need of such a hand.

Riley Toll, a freshman from Memphis in biomedical engineering, stood up and said, “Yeah . . . me.”

“I’d heard about the group and had a lot of interest,” said Toll. “Things like this are one of the reasons I was interested in engineering to begin with—to be able to help people and give back.

“Hopefully this brings some awareness to what can be accomplished through engineering.”

Chad Duty, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering, introduced the idea of 3D-printed prosthetics to the Makers Club, stemming from an ongoing effort of a group called the Enable Community Foundation. The Enable group matches up patients across the world who are in need of prosthetic appendages with groups like the Makers Club that have access to 3D printers.

The two parties work together to get the prosthetic limb fitted to the specific size and needs of the patient, and it is delivered free of charge.

Duty pointed out that groups like Enable that bring people together for a common cause underscore the role of having a network of makers and the promise that such innovators hold.

“There are a lot of good things that can be accomplished when groups of people work together,” said Duty. “The sky is the limit.”

Million-Dollar Idea Helps Fulfill Tennessee Promise


A new program designed to help Tennessee’s community college students better navigate the transition to the University of Tennessee has gained $1 million in support and recognition from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Following the establishment of the Tennessee Promise program, which provides two years of free community college to the state’s students, faculty members in UT’s Tickle College of Engineering met to come up with a plan to accommodate transfer students and position them for success in the college.

The team focused on the five-year graduation rate for engineering transfer students—71 percent, compared to 85 percent for traditional students who enter as freshmen.

“Transfer students face a unique set of challenges compared to traditional students,” said Materials Science and Engineering Professor David Keffer, leader on the project. “We sought to develop a program, based on input from many directions, to create an experience for transfer students which addresses well-identified academic and social obstacles to successful completion of their degree.”

From those meetings, TranSCEnD—Transfer Success Co-Design in Engineering Disciplines was born. The initial NSF grant lasts through 2022, when it will come up for renewal based on the plan’s success.

The team is working on a program that covers all five years of the students’ experience at both institutions. Chris Wetteland, a lecturer in materials science and engineering, is developing a summer research program to improve the transitional experience, while Rachel McCord, a faculty member in the college’s engineering fundamentals program, is developing methods to improve student success.

“These elements will maximize the benefit of the state’s investment in its future via Tennessee Promise,” said Keffer. “Once we demonstrate that the TranSCEnD program works here, we will share it with other institutions.”

TranSCEnD members considered other factors facing transfer students in comparison to traditional students who enter the program as freshmen. Among their findings, they learned that transfer students:

  • are almost twice as likely to be first-generation students
  • have more than double the unmet financial need of traditional students
  • face stresses over class sizes and communication with faculty
  • often find it challenging to become a part of peer groups, some of which have already worked together for two years

The goal is to increase support for transfer students to bring retention and graduation rates to a comparable level with those of traditional undergraduates.

The TranSCEnD team’s efforts now involve Tickle College of Engineering staff, researchers, and administration; UT’s admissions office; and faculty from Pellissippi State Community College. More than half of the students transferring into the college completed their associate’s degree at Pellissippi State.

Accolades: Notable Achievements for February 12, 2018

Dr. Thanos PapanicolaouCEE Professor Thanos Papanicolaou was recently appointed to serve as co-chair of the Surface Water working group of Governor Bill Haslam’s TN H2O Project, established to develop a statewide water plan to better understand strategic water resource needs and priorities for the state. Read more about Papanicolaou’s appointment.

Papanicolaou is also the 2018 recipient of the Hans Albert Einstein Award from the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE). Read more about the award.

Abel Collaborates for Interdisciplinary Project

Steve AbelSteven Abel is the co-PI for a project with mathematics Professor Vasileios Maroulas, funded by the National Science Foundation. The project will explain the characteristics of intracellular transport systems by determining the biophysical mechanisms responsible for organelle movements in plant cells through a combination of biological, computational, and statistical approaches.

The project will also establish a paradigm for the cross-disciplinary training of graduate students in molecular cell biology, computational biophysics, and statistical machine learning.

Read more about the NSF award funding the project.

CTR Researchers Co-author ARC Report

Four researchers affiliated with the Center for Transportation Research were major authors for an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) report released last month, “An Economic Analysis of the Appalachian Coal Industry Ecosystem.” The team included Director David Clarke, Director of Transportation Economics Mark Burton, CTR Fellow Charles Sims, and Matthew Murray, Baker Center Director.

This series of five ARC-commissioned reports explores some of the current and potential impacts of Appalachia’s declining coal production on elements of the coal ecosystem, including production and employment, supply chain industries, transportation, electric power generation, and human capital.

Read more about the report.

Boggs Wins Harper Scholarship

CEE doctoral student Ali BoggsAli Boggs, a civil engineering doctoral student in transportation, received one of three scholarships awarded by the Middle Tennessee Chapter of American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE). She was awarded a memorial scholarship of $2,000 in John R. Harper’s name.

Read more about Bogg’s scholarship.

Scintillating Investigation: Hayward and Qi Lead New Research Team

Jason Hayward and Hairong Qi have launched a new investigation of advanced organic scintillators, light collection in organic scintillation detectors, and advanced algorithms in a research project funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Jason Hayward

Jason Hayward

The new effort is in response to the country’s need to develop technology to search for, locate, and characterize radiological/nuclear (RN) materials, sometimes preferably with unmanned, autonomous vehicles.

Principle investigator Hayward, UCOR Fellow in the Department of Nuclear Engineering (NE), and co-principle Qi, Gonzalez Family Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), are joined in the project by Qibing Pei, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California Los Angeles.

Hairong Qi

Hairong Qi

The physical, optical, and radiation properties of these scintillators will be characterized, and the team will also investigate how detectors in selected geometries should be made. The organic scintillator study will increase knowledge and understanding aimed at improving the efficiency, energy resolution, and mechanical properties for gamma and neutron sensing.

The team will also research and develop advanced algorithms relevant to search, localization, source identification, 3D mapping, source tracking, and dynamic path planning with autonomous vehicles.

The grant contributes to the education of students at these two institutions through development of course materials and providing research opportunities in radiation detection. At present, senior and graduate student design teams in NE and EECS are engaged in engineering of drones made partly of plastic scintillators and associated algorithms that may be able to accomplish indoor RN search.

Funding of $1.05 million has been recently awarded for the next three years, and funding for two additional years is an option. The name of the new grant is “Investigation of DEtectors, Algorithms, and Systems (IDEAS) to Advance Autonomous Radiological/Nuclear Search.”

Big Orange Family Campaign

The Big Orange Family Campaign: February 5—March 2, 2018

During the Big Orange Family Campaign, from now through March 2, 2018, faculty and staff can make a big difference at UT.

Together, little increases in financial engagement can have a huge impact across campus on multiple levels. Last fiscal year, university employees raised over $1.1 million through the generosity of more than 2,400 employee donors.  The majority of these gifts were made at $100 or less. This support touched professorships, student scholarships, facilities improvements, research funding, and countless Volunteer lives.

In 2017, the Tickle College of Engineering achieved a record 58% college employee participation rate. Help us exceed expectation again this year. No matter the size, every gift to any UT fund counts toward participation. Through the cultivation of a culture of philanthropy at the university, we can make a Big Orange impact on campus.

Read about participating in the Big Orange Family Campaign


Rocketry Team Taking Part in NASA Competition

A rocket takes flight during the 2017 Student Launch Initiative competition in Alabama. (Fred Deaton/NASA)

A team of engineering students has been selected to participate in NASA’s Student Launch project, which pits 45 teams from across the country against one another in an attempt to overcome a specific challenge.

This year’s competition, held during rocket trials April 4–8 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, requires teams to build a reusable rocket capable of carrying a payload at least one mile high and successfully landing back on Earth.

Teams have a choice of one of three payloads:

  • a camera that can identify and discern between targets in flight
  • a rover that deploys upon landing, moves at least five feet, and extends solar panels
  • an onboard system that can triangulate a landing within a specified zone

“We made a unanimous decision to go with the rover option,” said Grayson Hawkins, a senior in mechanical engineering who co-leads the team with Theresa Palandro, a senior in aerospace engineering. “We must consider problems such as ‘Can the main axle handle 20 Gs of acceleration?’ and ‘What is the most efficient way to stow the rover during flight?’”

This marks the first time UT is taking part in the 18-year-old competition. Other Southeastern Conference schools participating include Auburn University, the University of Florida, and Vanderbilt University.

More than 30 UT students have had interest in the project, with about a dozen in the core UT Rocketry Team.

While they are allowed to have faculty supervision, the students must do all of the work themselves.

“It is our hope that we are creating permanent roots, so that future students will have these and more opportunities,” said Hawkins.

The group is working under UT’s Student Space Technology Association—founded by Hawkins three years ago and part of the Center for Student Engagement—and has been supported by the Tickle College of Engineering.

Drawings of the rocket, details about their plans, and timelines are included in the team’s preliminary design review, located on their website.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,

Coble Named Southern Company Faculty Fellow

Jamie Coble

Jamie Coble

Jamie Coble has been named the Tickle College of Engineering’s first Southern Company Faculty Fellow in recognition of her work as an assistant professor of nuclear engineering.

“I’m honored and grateful to have been selected for this recognition and to be associated with Southern Company, given it operates and is expanding its nuclear power operations,” Coble said. “This will enable me to focus even more on the issues surrounding the safety, sustainability, and economic competitiveness of nuclear power as a key carbon-free energy source.”

Southern Company is America’s premier energy company, with 46,000 megawatts of generating capacity and 1,500 billion cubic feet of combined natural gas consumption and throughput volume, serving 9 million customers through its subsidiaries.

Operations include nearly 200,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines and more than 80,000 miles of natural gas pipeline. Southern Company’s nuclear energy facilities generate more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity, and the addition of Vogtle nuclear units 3 and 4 will add about 2,200 megawatts.

The company, headquartered in Atlanta, has been a strong partner of the college, providing co-op experiences for large numbers of students and jobs for alumni.

Kim Greene, a 1988 UT engineering graduate, is the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“Professor Coble is an outstanding educator who has earned several honors as a result of her work to improve nuclear reactors,” Greene said. “Her research, which largely focuses on making nuclear energy more economically competitive while meeting strict safety standards, is vital to our industry.

“We have partnered with the University of Tennessee to create the faculty fellow position to further solidify our relationship with the university. Its Tickle College of Engineering is committed to excellence in scientific research and the training of engineering professionals in all disciplines.”

Brad Adams, Southern Nuclear’s vice president of engineering, added, “We’re happy to partner with scholars in the field of nuclear energy as we work to innovate the generation of clean, safe, and reliable nuclear energy. I am impressed with Professor Coble’s nuclear engineering experience, particularly in reliability and maintenance, and I look forward to the advancements we can make with the work we do together.”

Coble earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in nuclear engineering at UT in 2005, 2006, and 2010, respectively, as well as a master’s in reliability and maintenance engineering from UT in 2009.

After spending two years as a scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, she returned to UT in 2013 and has been a key faculty member in the department.

Coble is a member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), Women in Nuclear, and Tau Beta Pi, and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

She is an active member of the governance of the ANS’s Human Factors, Instrumentation, and Control Division and has participated in International Atomic Energy Agency research programs on nuclear plant monitoring, digital instrumentation and control, and cybersecurity.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,

UT’s David Mandrus Among Most Cited in World

David Mandrus

Jerry and Kay Henry Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering David Mandrus stands in his laboratory. Photo by Jennie Andrews.

Peer acknowledgment is often regarded as one of the best forms of recognition for researchers in any given field.

One Tickle College of Engineering faculty member has earned the distinction of being among the most cited researchers in the world, according to Clarivate Analytics, formerly Thompson Reuters.

Jerry and Kay Henry Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering David Mandrus was recently recognized for their contributions to science.

“This is a tremendous honor,” said Mandrus. “Having other scientists acknowledge our contributions is a validation of the research we’ve been conducting.”

It’s the second such recognition for Mandrus since 2014. Clarivate Analytics studied research and releases, measuring the total number of times that others cited the material in their own findings.

Those measurements came in relation to specific findings and papers rather than a cross-examination of all work tied to a researcher, placing the two UT faculty members in the top 1 percent of all research scientists across the world.

Mandrus’s research involves discovering new materials related to electronics and magnetics, such as superconductors and thermoelectrics.

A Fellow of the American Physical Society, Mandrus has seen his research cited more than 6,000 times.

UT and WVU Release Research on Coal Demand in Appalachia

Dramatic decreases in Appalachian coal production over the past decade have put many regional industries at risk for economic decline, according to joint research released today by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and West Virginia University.

The report, An Economic Analysis of the Appalachian Coal Industry Ecosystem, is the first comprehensive assessment of the current and potential effects the changing coal industry may have on the Appalachian region. The research was funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the US Economic Development Administration.

UT’s interdisciplinary team included researchers from the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research in the Haslam College of Business, the Center for Transportation Research in the Tickle College of Engineering, and the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Read more about the research study »

Accolades: Notable Achievements from Faculty and Students

UT Art-to-Part Project Makes AMO Top Five

The Tickle College of Engineering team’s art-to-part composite snow sled project was selected as No. 1 of the top five highlights of 2017 by the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) of the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Students were challenged to modernize a popular childhood pastime by redesigning snow sleds with more innovative techniques and materials. Students designed, built, and tested three composite snow sled prototypes that were lighter in weight and more durable than traditional snow sleds.

Read more about the AMO’s highlights.

Johnson Published by Advanced Photon Source

Jackie Johnson

Jackie Johnson

Jackie Johnson, associate professor at the UT Space Iinstitute, co-authored Teasing Out Iron’s Structural Subtleties, recently published via Advance Photo Source.

The paper addresses new results in studying the behavior of iron at high temperatures and pressures, focusing on its role in our understanding of Earth’s interior.

Johnson’s multinational team also included researchers from Materials Development, Inc., Argonne National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, University College London.

Read Johnson’s paper

Mukherjee featured in Journal of Biophotonics

Dibyendu Mukherjee

Dibyendu Mukherjee

MABE Assistant Professor Dibyendu Mukherjee is the principle investigator and corresponding author of the featured article on the back cover of the January 2018 issue of the Journal of Biophotonics. The article is “In-vitro analysis of early calcification in aortic valvular interstitial cells using Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS),” co-written with Seyyed Ali Davari, Shirin Masjedi, and Zannatul Ferdous.

Read more about the article.

The Journal of Biophotonics is the first international journal dedicated to publishing original articles and reviews from the field of biophotonics and has a current impact factor of ~ 4.33.

MSE Graduate Student Earns Multiple Awards

Michael Stanford, MSE graduate student

Michael Stanford

Michael Stanford recently earned the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Graduate Student Researcher Award, along with two others. The ORNL award is for outstanding research contributions to focused ion and electron beam-induced processing and defect manipulation in 2D materials.

Stanford studies with Philip Rack, professor and Leonard G. Penland Chair and associate department head in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The student researcher also received two awards from the American Vacuum Society (AVS):

  • Dorothy M. and Earl S. Hoffman Scholarship: One of five named National Student Awards established to recognize and encourage excellence in graduate studies in the sciences and technologies of interest to the society.
  • James Harper Award: The premier competitive graduate student award for the Thin Films Division of AVS, it recognizes research contributions as well as oral presentation skills.

DeJager Joins Strongwell

Ty DeJager

Ty DeJager

Recent chemical engineering graduate Ty DeJager has joined Strongwell as a process engineer. He previously worked in the Strongwell lab as an engineering intern.

DeJager also has worked for Diamond Vogel Paints in Orange City, Iowa, as an engineering intern. After graduation from UT, he successfully hiked the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail from the United States/Mexican border to British Columbia, Canada. He resides with his dog, Jake, in Bristol, Virginia.

Read more about DeJager at Strongwell

Gragston wins Best Student Paper at SciTech Forum

Mark Gragston, PhD student in the MABE department, won Best Student Paper in the Aerodynamic Measurement Technology—Spectroscopic Technologies Session at the 2018 AIAA Science and Technology (SciTech) Forum held earlier this month in Orlando.

The winning paper, entitled “Acoustic measurements of molecular oxygen REMPI,” focuses on Gragston’s work to extract gas phase temperature by listening to the effects of selective multiphoton ionization of molecular oxygen.

Gragston’s advisor Associate Professor Zhili Zhang and former Postdoc Yue Wu are co-authors on the paper. The paper has also been published in Optics Letters, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Optical Society of America.

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