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The Min H. and Yu Fan Kao Innovation and Collaboration Studio (ICS) at the Tickle College of Engineering helps students turn dreams in to reality—sometimes in the most literal ways.
Mitul Mistry, a 2020 graduate in mechanical engineering, was working at Open Chord Music, a Knoxville musical-instrument shop, when customer Greg Seigmund showed him a guitar neck that Seigmund had crafted himself. Mistry was inspired by the concept that someone could build their own guitar.
“That same night, I had a dream where I built a guitar and played it in front of people,” said Mistry. “When I woke up, I thought to myself, ‘I guess I better get started,’ and immediately went out and got whatever wood I thought I needed.”
Then his challenge was to find a place to build.
“I had little-to-no prior experience with power tools, but I was lucky enough to remember about the ICS from when I did Engineering Fundamentals projects,” said Mistry.
He told Michael Allen, ICS academic support specialist, about his guitar plan.
“I was surprised to how open he was to the idea, regardless of how a little experience I had with tools,” he said.
Allen’s assistance and the availability of the ICS was a path for Mistry to make his dream come true.
“He guided me in a way that allowed a novice freedom, but with correct technique,” said Mistry. “Without him I don’t think the project would have happened the way it did. I think that my time in the ICS has definitely been a highlight in my life.”
He went on to build a second guitar, improving his process with an eye for details learned from his first go-around. The project echoes a habit he developed early in grade school, creating origami designs that impressed his teachers. He also discovered a knack for taking things apart and make something new with the pieces—such as creating an air conditioning unit out of old computer parts.
Before coming to UT, he first experienced woodshop while in the engineering program at Farragut High School, where he was enthralled by the array of tools.
“I’ve always been an maker at heart,” he said. “Studying engineering just made sense for me to do.”
The lessons from throughout his school days continue to resonate, even in his current career as a process engineer with Y-12 National Security Complex.
“I think what I learned the most out of the guitar build was how to utilize my resources,” said Mistry. “From buying the raw materials, to using the ICS and Michael’s knowledge, and finding information on the internet. These were all resources used for the guitar to happen. When it comes to my current job, I am able to know how to utilize my resources in a similar manner.”
Mistry’s mechanical mindset helps him thrive in his current role.
“Knowing how things work, why things work, and how things work together are fundamentals I learned with my mechanical engineering degree,” he said. “I’ve also now become a better car mechanic.”
Meanwhile, he maintains his musically creative side at any “blues jam” night he can find around town.
“I have my own band that I play with called Pizza Jeans,” said Mistry. “I take any opportunity I can get to play.”