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Civil Engineers Build Canstruction for Second Harvest

A team of faculty and students from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering “Canstructed” a sight to behold this holiday season as they participated in a friendly and spirited competition.

The “Canstruction” competition brought together teams throughout the Knoxville area in a contest to see who could build the most elaborate structures out of canned goods, all for one purpose—fighting hunger.


Read more here.

CEE Professor Khalid Alshibli Contributes Photos of Lunar Regolith (Soil) Simulant to Arabic Space Museum in Kuwait

Research photos of lunar regolith simulant, or lunar soil simulant, taken by CEE Professor Khalid Alshibli for his geotechnical research, will be used as part of a permanent visual display at a world-class space museum currently under construction in the Al-Sha’ab district of Kuwait City, Kuwait. The museum will be one of four that will cover Arabic Science, Space, Natural History and Science, which together will make up the Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre. Specifically, The Arabic Science Museum will be an interactive exploration of Islamic civilization, examining the people and innovations that played a crucial part in the development of intellectual thought in our world.

The photos selected for The Arabic Space Museum depict macroscopic images of the lunar regolith simulant, which was created to mimic the geotechnical properties of lunar regolith, since actual lunar soil is not available to most researchers due to the small collection samples brought from Apollo missions.

Alshibli, who worked in NASA’s Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, AL, between 1995-2001, has researched the strength properties of JSC-1A lunar regolith simulant and strength properties of sand including testing sand aboard NASA space Shuttles. His research, in conjunction with then CEE graduate student of Louisiana State University Alsidiqi Hasan, was conducted to predict strength properties of lunar regolith, which will be critical for NASA’s future lunar exploration missions. More information about Professor Alshibli research can be found at

CEE Assistant Professor Jon Hathaway Interviewed by WBIR About East Tennessee Flooding

Jon HathawayCEE Assistant Professor Jon Hathaway was recently interviewed by news station WBIR to weigh in on the topic of flooding in East Tennessee. To help residents determine if flooding was a risk to their property, he was asked which of three areas are least likely to flood: areas on major waterways, areas on small waterways, or urban areas.

“You’re most likely to see flooding in small areas and urban areas where you have a lot of development where water collects and makes it way to local streams really quickly,” he said. “That’s the most likely flooding  we see. It’s either nuisance flooding or more frequent urban flooding. Flooding on the TVA system is just highly unlikely.”

Because flooding is the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster, the important to keep flood insurance coverage in mind. The video clip explains some questions to ask insurers when determining if flood insurance is right for you.

CEE Professor Richard Bennett Receives Outstanding Educator Award

CEE Professor Richard Bennett has directed the Engineering Fundamentals Program in the Tickle College of Engineering since 2008. On September 29 at the Tennessee Section ASCE (American Society for Civil Engineering) meeting, it was announced that he is this year’s recipient of the Peter G. Hoadley Award for Outstanding Engineering Educator.

The Engineering Fundamentals program incorporates a number of innovations to promote retention of Freshmen students while at the same time establishing a strong fundamental foundation for advanced coursework. This innovative program teaches physics in an engineering context to more than 800 students per year across all engineering majors through a mixture of lecture course and smaller hands on laboratory and engineering design projects. Professor Bennett leads a team of five faculty instructors, three staff members, and more than 25 graduate and undergraduate in delivering the program.

In addition to these duties, Professor Bennett also teaches a spring graduate-level course in Masonry Design, serves as a mentor to early-career faculty members in the structure area, and participates on various committees.

“Professor Bennett is a remarkable educator and leader who has made tremendous impacts on thousands of students from all engineering disciplines as they begin their engineering education,” said CEE Department Chair Chris Cox. “He also continues to remain active within the discipline of civil engineering through his teaching and through his service to the department and to ASCE in his technical specialization of masonry.”

CEE Student Uses Civil Engineering to Test Hockey Sticks

Civil Engineers at the University of Tennessee are well-rounded, learning fundamental engineering practices from all fields of study to help produce an engineer that can tackle any challenge. If taking on structural challenges sounds like fun to you, The University of Tennessee offers many clubs and programs that participate in local competitions and also helps solve engineering problems in the community.

I personally am doing a project with a fellow teammate on the hockey team to determine the best type of hockey sticks to purchase. What do hockey and civil engineering have in common? Well a lot, in fact! As an ice hockey player takes a slap shot, the energy is loaded into the stick by slamming the stick down into the ice causing it to bend. When the stick passes the neutral axis, the energy is released into a whipping motion causing the puck to be propelled at speeds of 98 mph, as shown by Alexander Ovechkin in the picture. Hockey sticks are designed with this type of flexure in mind. Companies like CCM and Bauer design sticks to be light and stiff, yet capable to withstand the high loads applied to them. There are many variables and due to the advanced tapering design in the blade of the stick and price of sticks we use a simple point load on a two-foot section of already broken sticks. The two-foot section is taken near the butt end which is symmetrical throughout. With this we can do repeated test till failure to check manufacture claims.

The University of Tennessee is full of projects and competitions to help improve your knowledge and understanding of the applications of civil engineering. Companies like AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction) Host challenges for student to design and construct steel bridges to help in further learning and development. If this sounds like a job for you come join us!


Charles Gallagher

CEE Professor John Schwartz Publishes Results of Research Project Focused on Rural Appalachia Region’s Water Access

CEE professor John Schwartz has published a paper about a rural Appalachian region’s access to clean water. The Appalachia Community Health and Disaster Readiness Project was a 3-year funded research project by the US DHHS and headed up by the College of Nursing, partnered with the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, and the College of Architecture and Design. Additional authors include Erin Arcipowski, doctoral student in the College of Nursing; Lisa Davenport, project director for the Appalachia Community Health and Disaster Readiness Project; Meghan Hayes, Clinical Instructor in the College of Nursing and Project Manager for the Project; and Tracy Nolan, Directory of Community Outreach at Red Bird Mission in southeastern Kentucky, the region in focus.

The research began with the testing of collected water samples, which revealed 15 of 16 sites contained fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, or both. Because of the findings, the team and community key informants collaboratively developed interventions, such as relaying findings to community leaders, developing a WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene)-related education program, and improving access to clean, safe water through the design and construction of a water kiosk. With the design and construction of a water kiosk, Jenney Retherford, PhD, in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department managed two groups of senior design students collaborating with architectural and nursing students during this effort. Outcome of interventions included greater awareness and knowledge of WASH related topics, improved access to clean water sources, and sustainable solutions to enhance overall quality of life, health and well-being.

Click here to read the full research paper.

CEE Doctoral Student Receives First Place in Student Poster Competition at UT Watershed Symposium

Micah Wyssmann, CEE doctoral student whose research is in water resources, won first place at the 6th Annual UT Watershed Symposium held on September 26. The interdisciplinary symposium received about 15 poster entries from CEE, Architecture and Landscape Architecture departments and UTIA. Wyssmann’s poster was entitled “Modeling the Stream Restoration Impacts of Boulders: Applying the Bedload Virtual Velocity Concept,” which focused on a numerical model that he is developing with his advisor, CEE Professor Thanos Papanicolaou.

The goal of this research is to improve the physical understanding of sediment transport so that we can develop predictive tools that can function in different types of rivers and streams. In mountainous streams in particular, such as in the nearby Smoky Mountains, sediment movement is difficult to predict because large boulders modify flow characteristics and can provide shelter to mobile sediment. Mimicking this natural environment, stream restoration practicioners have also artificially placed boulders to manage flow and sediment transport in a river reach. Wyssmann’s hope in the development of this model, is to simultaneously provide new scientific insights into sediment transport mechanics and produce a practical prediction tool that can be used by river restoration engineers.

CEE Professor Thanos Papanicolauo’s Research Featured in Editors’ Vox, Perspectives on Earth and space science: a blog from the AGU’s journal editors

CEE Professor Thanos Papanicolaou’s research on soil in U.S. Midwest, which is known for intensive agriculture and high crop production,  is featured on Editors’ Vox, Perspectives on Earth and space science: a blog from the AGU’s journal editors. In the post entitled “Stories on the Soil,” Papanicolaou outlines how his research seeks to unravel how past human activities and climate have led to the current state of soils used for agriculture, how current activities continue to affect the soils, and how future climate is likely to interact with human activities to affect future soil states. Included in the blog post is a link to a video at Clear Creek in Iowa, which features a typical rainfall experiment designed to specifically mimic natural rainfall effects on landscapes with different soil types, management, and topographic properties.

Recent CEE Undergraduates Take Home 2nd Place in Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition & Conference (WEFTEC)

Four CEE alumni – Kelli Spradling, Katie Gipson, Sharon Counts and Stina Sanford (not pictured) – completed a project for the CE400 Senior Design class as students and then took time out of their post-graduate lives to compete at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition & Conference (WEFTEC) for the first time. Three from the team traveled to Chicago for the competition and took 2nd Place in the Water/Environment Division of the WEF Student Design Competition out of six other teams in their division.

CEE400 Instructor Jenny Retherford said, “The success of this inaugural team displays the caliber of work that we perform and puts on a national stage. I couldn’t be prouder of this team and so many similar teams who complete similar work in this course.”

Additionally, a legacy team comprised of current students – Jose Luna, Chelsey Brummer, Blake Anthony, Christian Kidd and Jeremy Melton – also traveled to see the competition in action. The legacy team will work on group project together in the CE400 class in the spring of 2018 and will go to WEFTEC to participate in the WEA Student Design Competition in fall of 2018.


CEE Assistant Professor Jon Hathaway Partners with UT College of Social Work on NSF Funded Stormwater Research

Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Jon Hathaway and U.T. College of Social Work Professor Lisa Reyes Mason, are investigators on a $1.8M grant from the National Science Foundation.The multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional grant, titled Overcoming social and technical barriers for the broad adoption of smart stormwater systems, will be led by the University of Michigan. The proposal grew from a concern about urban flooding and climate change and will investigate social and technical barriers to the adoption of smart stormwater systems in four cities (including Knoxville) in a three-year study.

The goal of the project is to enable the next generation of smart and connected stormwater systems, which use sensors to anticipate changes in weather and the urban landscape, and adapt their operation using active flow controls (e.g. gates, valves, pumps). This will drastically improve community resilience to floods and water quality impairments, which have been increasing due to expanding urbanization and changing weather patterns.

Equipping stormwater systems with low-cost sensors and controllers will provide a cost-effective solution to transform infrastructure from static to adaptive, permitting it to be instantly “redesigned” to respond to changing system needs, as well as help minimize impact on aging infrastructure.

“Civil engineering, by its nature, has a big impact on humanity,” said Hathaway. “We do work that has an impact on society, so I think having our colleges work together is a natural pairing, and one with real world consequence. Together, we can hopefully break some of the barriers that have kept this idea from becoming adapted in a more widespread way. Water issues are an increasingly important topic, and one that our colleges are poised to tackle.”

“Understanding the social aspects of smart stormwater is a brand new area,” said Reyes Mason, adding some of the questions guiding the research: “What does the public think about these systems? What are the barriers to adoption? How do experiences with flooding or trust in local government matter? By forming an Advisory Committee and carrying out survey research in different cities, we hope to answer these questions and start to identify directions for policy and decision making in this critical area.”

This research proposal was in part motivated by the Grand Challenge of the National Academy of Engineering to “restore and improve urban infrastructure” as well as the College of Social Work’s Grand Challenge, which is to “create social responses to a changing environment, and aims to lay a foundation to empower communities to transform the way they handle runoff and flooding.

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