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UT Students Compete at SAMPE Conference

Students hold a glass fiber box beam.

From left, Philip Barnett, Brett Hulett, and William Henken placed third in the glass fiber box beam competition.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (UT) Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) student chapter represented the university at the SAMPE 2019 conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, this May.

This conference hosts many key leaders of the composites industry, including companies, research institutions, and academic institutions, where students can make connections and stay informed and engage with the latest advancements in composites manufacturing and research.

UT student members took advantage of the excellent opportunities for networking, including a tour of Highland Composites’ manufacturing facility outside of Charlotte. In addition, the conference organized a number of student competitions, where student chapters from different universities demonstrate their composite design and manufacturing skills.

A perennial highlight of each SAMPE conference is the student bridge competition, where student chapters produce 24-inch-long beams from carbon fiber, fiberglass, and other high-strength fibers and compete for the strongest and lightest beams in specific categories. UT students competed in four bridge categories: glass fiber box beam, recycled carbon fiber beam, open design, and composite sandwich beam as well as the inaugural fuselage competition.

The team’s glass fiber box beam took 3rd in its category with the recycled carbon fiber beam coming in 4th. Their open design finished 5th and was the first-ever structural 3D printed bridge in the competition. The design was made possible through a collaboration with Local Motors, a Knoxville-based startup. The sandwich beam poster placed 2nd overall out of over 100 submitted posters. While the fuselage competition was not officially scored this year, the UT entry ranked highest in the design category and passed its load requirement with ease.

Three graduate student team members, Philip Barnett, Hannah Maeser, and Alex Stiles, presented posters on their current research as part of the student research poster competition. Barnett and Maeser work closely with Dayakar Penumadu, Fred N. Peebles professor and SAMPE student chapter advisor. William Henken, a CEE graduate student, represented the chapter on a team in the SAMPE 2019 scholarship golf tournament, finishing 8th of 36.

Many of UT’s SAMPE chapter members are also interns with IACMI – The Composites Institute and were able to share insight from supporting emerging composite technology projects in industry. IACMI has supported the UT SAMPE chapter throughout the academic year, providing materials, facility space, and industry insight with its members.

Get Involved

Notably, 2019 was only the second year the student chapter has participated in these competitions, making these feats even more impressive. The chapter is already making plans to build on the 2019 performance for next year’s conference, with the hopes of recruiting even more students to get involved. Any interested students can get connected by emailing