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ASCE Student Conference Highlights

The UT American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter recently competed in a three-day competition with more than 1,000 students from 25 universities across the Southeast. The ASCE Student Conference is the most anticipated event for ASCE students all year because of the intense planning, especially in two categories, the steel bridge and concrete canoe construction. There are a total of 35 different categories of competition, as well as an overall ranking by school. This year, the team at UT placed 4th overall. Click here for more results from the competition.

The captains of the steel bridge and concrete canoe teams offer a few highlights from the event.

Concrete Canoe Team

Morgan Jenkins – “One such event involves designing, building, and racing a concrete canoe. This competition focuses on materials and mixture design which we tested to find a suitable concrete mix throughout the fall semester. Early in the spring semester, we ran structural calculations and cast the canoe. At the conference the most exciting day for the canoe team was racing day where we got to compete with universities from throughout the South. We were extremely proud to showcase our canoe in this year’s conference in Boca Raton, Florida!”

Sydney Reeder – “Concrete canoe was an exciting, challenging experience that allowed for a unique application of skills from classroom and professional engineering practices.  I found it to be a valuable experience because it allowed me to gain experience in properly managing a project while working alongside my peers to produce a successful project.  This opportunity helped me feel a sense of community in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department as well as with companies and other entities within the greater Knoxville community.  I have also gained valuable memories and experiences that I can learn from and pass on to others.  Overall, this experience was a great way to represent the Tickle College of Engineering, the Civil Department, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.”

Steel Bridge Team

Matt Lyons – “After months of hard work it was an amazing feeling to be able to compete. Although it was a nerve-racking couple hours of constructing and then load testing, it made it all worth it when we saw the results and how well we placed. I am extremely proud of my team and hope we can compete once more at nationals.”

Will King – “The Steel Bridge Completion consists of students designing and fabricating a 20’ bridge. The teams are judged weight and stiffness of the bridge. The students also have to construct the bridge on site at the competition.  The entire event is based off of a score composed of a monetary cost assigned to your stiffness, weight, and construction speed results.  Our design was built to optimize the construction speed and stiffness portions, while our weight was a little high. After competing against 22 other top southeastern schools we placed 4th. We are very proud of our performance and cannot wait to show out again next year!”

ASCE Student Chapter Wins 4th Overall in SE Student Conference

On March 16-18, the UT ASCE Student Chapter traveled to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton to compete in the ASCE SE Student Conference. In a three-day competition with more than 1,000 students from 25 universities across the Southeast, UT placed 4th overall. This conference was the largest of 14 national ASCE student conferences.

“I could not be more proud of our chapter and all of their accomplishments this year,” said ASCE Student Chapter President Katie Gipson.  “We had a great time in Boca Raton and represented the University very well!”

UT placed in the top three in the following individual competitions:

1 st Place             

  • Steel Bridge Display
  • Professional Paper

3rd Place              

  • Plan Reading

Co-Captains of the Concrete Canoe project, Morgan Jenkins and Sydney Reeder, were excited to finally reach the racing day after months of designing and building, while considering materials and structural calculations.

“Concrete canoe was an exciting, challenging experience that allowed for a unique application of skills from classroom and professional engineering practices,” said Reeder. “I found it to be a valuable experience because it allowed me to gain experience in properly managing a project while working alongside my peers to produce a successful project.”

The Steel Bridge project co-captains, Matt Lyons and Will King, were proud of their team’s 4th place overall finish and 1st place award in the display category. After months of teamwork to fabricate a 20-foot bridge that could support a 2,500-pound load.

“Our design was built to optimize the construction speed and stiffness portions,” said King.” We are very proud of our performance and cannot wait to show out again next year!”

“Although it was a nerve-wracking couple hours of constructing and then load testing, it made it all worth it when we saw the results and how well we placed,” said Lyons.” I am extremely proud of my team and hope we can compete once more at nationals.”

“The ASCE Knoxville Branch and Department of CEE are very supportive of our ASCE student chapter, which enables us to be competitive every year in the largest national conference,” said Faculty Advisor Professor John Ma. “This year’s conference was held during our spring-break week, which limited the number of our students to participate. With Katie and Lauren’s leadership, UT still placed 4th overall. I am very proud of their accomplishments.”

UT’s results in other categories are as follows. For a full listing of awards received by all schools, click here.

1st Place

  • Professional Paper — Stina Sanford
  • Steel Bridge Display — Matthew Lyons, Will King, Salvador Morales, Scott Wilson, Meet Patel, Nicolo Franceschetti


3rd Place

  • Plan Reading — Lauren Barnette, Scott Henderson, Kelli Grissom

4th Place

  • Environmental — Kelli Grissom, Sharon Counts
  • T-Shirt — Liliana Porras
  • Balsa Bridge Competition — Ethan Riddle, Jose Luna, Anthony Carvagno

5th Place

  • Steel Bridge Overall — Matthew Lyons, Will King, Salvador Morales, Scott Wilson, Meet Patel, Nicolo Franceschetti
  • Conference Theme Display — Leah Stephens, Jaideep Thota

8th Place

  • Ladder Golf — Sharon Counts, Kelli Grissom, Sydney Adcock, Mac Carson

9th Place

  • Survey — Max Carter, Scott Wilson, Salvador Morales

10th Place

  • Traffic Engineering — Sharon Counts, Katie Gipson, Liliana Porras
  • Concrete Cornhole — Sharon Counts, Kelli Grissom, Sydney Adcock

11th Place

  • Wood Dam — Stina Sanford
  • Mystery — Anthony Carvagno

12th Place

  • Concrete Frisbee — Sharon Counts, Kelli Grissom, Sydney Adcock, Matthew Lyons, Sydney Reeder
  • Overall Canoe — Morgan Jenkins, Will King, Sydney Reeder, Matt Davis, Lauren Barnette, Katie Gipson, Kelli Grissom, Liliana Porras, Scott Henderson, Matthew Lyons, Will King, Justin Condon

15th Place

Geotechnical Engineering — Scott Henderson, Noah Clabo

CEE Doctoral Student Bridges Space Exploration with Civil Engineering

Dr. Achilles Tsakiris and PhD student Christian Mooneyham stand beside the test column.

CEE doctoral student Christian Mooneyham won the prestigious NASA Space Grant Institute scholarship to study crater formation on Mars. How does civil engineering fit into the space research? Christian will be using his knowledge from methane expulsion in lake sediments and reservoirs to scale-up what is happening on Earth back to the planet Mars. His military background and math skills allow him to do this scaling while using experimental evidence and sensors in his model at HSL. Christian got his BS at Westpoint and MS at Virginia Tech. He joined UTK and the Tickle College of Engineering in January 2017.

“Christian is meticulous and curious enough to succeed in his research endeavors,” said CEE Professor Thanos Papanicolaou. “He is excited to explain life on Mars using knowledge gained on planet Earth.”

ASCE VOLstarter

The American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter from the Tickle College of Engineering is launching a VOLstarter in March 2017 to help offset our annual conference cost. Every spring our chapter attends a regional conference to compete in several competitions including designing and building a steel bridge and racing a canoe made from concrete. The conference, and the work leading up to it, provides our students with invaluable experience in the engineering process including design, project management, construction, and professional presentations. Last year, our chapter finished second overall among 26 other schools in the SEC, and this year we hope to again earn high distinction.

Our fundraising goal through VOLstarter is set at $2,000. We hope to exceed this goal by the end of our campaign. We are fortunate enough to have a supportive community that shows their support through volunteering their time, money, and expertise. We appreciate any support from our community. Donations to the ASCE can be made through the VOLstarter project page using a credit card.


Grant Ladd
ASCE UTK Student Chapter Fundraising Chair

ASCE Student Chapter

Hey there! My name is Katie Gipson and I am the current chapter president of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) here at UT. I have been involved with ASCE since 2014. Since then, I have gained a great appreciation of ASCE’s purpose and our goal as a student chapter, which is to foster a sense of community and provide leadership opportunities for students in Civil engineering. While ASCE here at UT is a great way to be involved, it is much bigger than a college group. ASCE is a national organization that sets standards, provides professional development, and encourages innovation within Civil Engineering.

Throughout this year, our chapter has participated in several volunteer projects, held many professional development opportunities, and worked very hard on the annual conference projects. The volunteer projects have ranged from stream cleanups in Second Creek Our to CANstruction to helping with a Habitat for Humanity Build. In our General Body Meetings, we have leaders from the Civil Engineering industry and academia speak to students about the future for Civil and Environmental Engineers and the various projects their companies and research service. Outside of service and meetings, our ASCE chapter participates in the Southeast Region Student Conference where we showcase our progress as a group through competitions like Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge.

This year is beginning to wrap up with our annual conference March 16-18. Each team is given a strict set of rules to create the best product possible. This year we will be traveling to sun-shiny Florida to visit Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fl. While this is a very desirable location, it increases the overall cost to the chapter. To help mitigate our costs, we have utilized many methods for fundraising, one of which is hosting a VOLstarter Campaign. (Read more about this campaign here.)

As a chapter, our purpose is to represent the American Society of Civil Engineers and the University of Tennessee well. Each year we are able to showcase our determination and dedication to the profession while promoting the Volunteer Spirit.

I hope to leave this chapter with an excitement for innovation and a drive to better the organization of ASCE and the profession of Civil Engineering.

Check back in late March or early April to see our standings from conference

Katie Gipson

CEE Traffic Bowl Team Places First in TSITE

CEE’s Traffic Bowl Team took home first place in the Tennessee Section Institute of Transportation Engineers (TSITE) Traffic Bowl Competition. UT students Behram Wali, Nirbesh Dhakal, and Pankaj Dahal beat students from Tennessee State University in the first round and emerged winners after competing with the University of Memphis in the final round.

The team is now looking forward to competing at the district level on March 26-29 in Columbus, SC, during the Southern District 2017 ITE Annual Meeting. Winners of the district competition will go on to compete in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl Grand Championship in Toronto, Ontario.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering 2017 Event

CEE Professors Angel Palomino and Kim Carter, along with CEE Instructor Jenny Retherford, and graduate students Laura Matzek, Katie Manz, Cyrus Jedari, and Liu Cao, arranged for the CEE department to have a presence at Introduce a Girl to Engineering 2017 in Oak Ridge. This program is designed to excite and empower girls ages 9-12 to pursue careers in STEM fields and show them that engineering can be fun and rewarding. The event was held at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and was a partnership between academia, the community, and engineering industry representatives. Attendees got the opportunity to investigate and experience many career choices related to mathematics, engineering, science, and technology (STEM). The CEE department used physical demonstrations that represented different aspects of civil & environmental engineering to help communicate what the field and the program at UT is all about.

Future City Competition Hosted by UT Sparks Engineering Imagination

On January 21, middle-schoolers from across the state converged at UT to participate in the 25th Anniversary Future City Competition to address The Power of Public Space. The theme of this year’s competition challenges students to design innovative, multiuse public spaces that serve a city’s diverse population.

The competition brought together students who have been hard at work on their Future City projects since returning to school in the fall. The 36 participants comprised twelve teams who joined more than 40,000 others from 1,350 schools in 37 regions who are engaged in similar competitions.

Local engineering firm, LDA, sponsored the regional competition, which was judged by WBIR newscaster, Daniel Sechtin. “At LDA, we believe in building stronger, happier communities through the practice of civil and environmental engineering and a major part of that is developing future STEM professionals,” says Jason Brooks, PE President and CEO of LDA. “Future City is the ideal competition to introduce middle school students to the engineering process and help them understand the role of engineers in building their cities and communities. Our goal is to spark an interest and passion in the student for engineering and science.”

CEE Lecturer Jenny Retherford served as the UT coordinator for the event. She was surprised to see 50 more people attending than was expected. “Future City was designed as an after-school program, so I was pleased to see that so many whole families showed up to support the student involved in the competition,” she said. “It’s clear that this program is having an impact at the family level.”

CEE Alumna Awarded $250,000 Investment for Water Conservation Technology

CEE alumna Jessica Linville graduated from UT in 2013 with a PhD in Environmental Engineering where she researched improvements to cellulosic ethanol fermentation at BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) in collaboration with ORNL and under the direction of Dr. Chris Cox.

Today, she credits UT with giving her the opportunity to grow as an independent researcher. She was encouraged to think creatively, to look at the larger problem and select her own research focus, as well as to foster her own collaborations with other scientists at ORNL. As it turns out, these skills positioned her well as the founder and CEO of an innovative company called RWEDI Water, which was recently awarded a $250,000 investment from the University of Chicago Innovation Fund. The Innovation fund invests in promising technologies developed by faculty and students of the University of Chicago and its affiliates. Linville became eligible to compete for the funds through her post-doctoral appointment at Argonne National Lab.

The award was granted for the RWEDI Water purification technology that provides a low-cost, energy-efficient alternative for use in cooling towers. Cooling towers are used to cool a building much like home air conditioning systems, except that they use evaporating water instead of the outside air, which is more efficient for large buildings. As the water evaporates, dissolved ions cause scaling and corrosion buildup in the cooling tower. Currently, chemical treatments are used to minimize the scale and corrosion, but their effectiveness is limited. As the ions build up in the cooling tower, the water must be removed and freshwater added to lower the concentration of the ions. The RWEDI Water system uses electricity to remove ions that cause scaling and corrosion from the cooling tower makeup water stream.

Right now, RWEDI Water is focused on cooling towers at mid-sized institutions in the southwestern part of the U.S., such as universities, hospitals, data centers and airports. These types of organizations often have between 4-10 cooling towers and use between 50-200 million gallons of fresh water per year. Geographically, water conservation in the Southwest is more urgent because of extreme and lasting droughts. Additionally, water in these areas has a  high potential to form scale, which adds to the difficulty of water conservation. Linville adds that mid-sized institutions typically have sustainability goals, making them more willing to adopt new technology.

The RWEDI Water system is based on Argonne National Laboratory’s patented “resin-wafer” material, which is more effecting in controlling scale and corrosion than traditional chemical treatment systems. It also achieves a 25 percent decrease in cooling tower operational costs  by decreasing makeup water requirements by 20 percent, decreasing chemical use by 40 percent, and reducing maintenance costs. Linville built the business model for the technology and has an option for the license.

“Freshwater stress and scarcity is one of the most challenging emerging issues in the United States due to rapid population growth, urbanization, and improved standards of living,” she says. “With over 500,000 cooling towers using nearly 4 percent of all freshwater withdraws (5 trillion gallons per year), cooling tower water use is a major concern for mid-sized institutions. An efficient water purification technology for cooling towers will make an enormous impact of U.S. water resources.”

The funding Linville received will allow her RWEDI Water team to build and install a pilot unit at a cooling tower in their target market to generate critical performance data and to attract additional interest from sales partners and customers. The company will need an additional $1 million investment for the next stage in product development, which involves custom fabrication of the patented resin-wafer material,  developing the final look of the product with the help of an engineering firm, and contracting with a manufacturing company to make it. RWEDI Water’s go-to-market strategy includes partnering with the water treatment services companies who service the cooling tower. Linville is hopeful that RWEDI Water will receive the next investment by the Fall of 2017 in order to initiate sales by the following summer.

“Even as a graduate student, Jessica was very independent and resourceful in coming up with ideas for the direction of her research and making the connections to see her plans through to completion,” says Cox. “At the same time, she has always been driven to contribute to practical problems facing industry. It is exciting to see her use her skills and interests to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity at an early stage of her career.”

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