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MABE students present their Tenneco project at the 2024 Senior Design Showcase

Senior Design Prototype Aces Dry Run

Once Grayson Purdy (BS/ME, ’22) heard about the problem his company was having, he knew exactly where to find a potential solution.

Purdy is a manufacturing engineer at Tenneco, an automotive components equipment manufacturer in Sevierville, Tennessee. The company was experiencing challenges with its engine valve cleaning process. Moisture and contaminants on the valves were negatively impacting the testing accuracy.

Purdy suggested Tenneco reach out to the University of Tennessee. Having recently completed a senior design project as a student, Purdy was confident a team from the Tickle College of Engineering could help try and solve the problem.

Anukkah Burleson, Jackson Diamond, Adison Grajqevci, and Myles Dettman were up to the task. The four mechanical engineering majors developed a high efficiency valve dryer that solved Tenneco’s problem. Tenneco plans to permanently integrate the prototype into the assembly process.

(From left to right) Jackson Diamond, Adison Grajqevci, Myles Dettman, and Anukkah Burleson present their project at the 2024 Senior Design Showcase.

“Hearing that something we designed actually worked for a real-world problem felt really good,” Burleson said. “It almost knocks down all the doubts you had about yourself and what you think you can accomplish.”

Tenneco met with the senior design team about finding a way to dry its engine valves more effectively after cleaning. Previous methods of drying still left the valves moist, which led to inaccuracies in optical micrometer readings and damage to the equipment during leak down tests.

Nearly 66 transducers needed to be replaced in less than a year, costing Tenneco an estimated $40,000 for replacements. It also slowed down the manufacturing process because employees had to dry the valves by hand.

After reviewing the drying process, UT’s team realized the water in the drying process needed to fall off at a different angle and with higher pressure to keep the valves dry.

UT’s team modeled its prototype after the dryers in the bathroom that people stick their hands into as opposed to the dryers that they hold their hands under. That way, the dryer would create a capsule to catch water and push it down to avoid blowing the water back onto the other valves, which had been an issue before.

“Their creativity really impressed us,” Purdy said. “In college, you do a lot of math and have equations to solve. But being given a problem, being able to correctly identify the problem, and coming up with a solution is something that isn’t really taught. This was something that is very practical, and they came up with a great solution.”

UT’s team assembled the dryer at the start of the spring semester and tested it on campus with some valves they were given. After making some slight modifications to make sure it fit on Tenneco’s production line, the dryer was installed at the factory in April.

Tenneco ran a test overnight and the dryer worked with 99 percent accuracy. The company envisions replicating the prototype for all its production lines.

“It saves us thousands of dollars because of this project. That is the immediate benefit we get,” Purdy said. “But we also get to see potential job candidates that have experience in manufacturing now. This opens even more doors of communication between Tenneco and UT.”

UT’s team enjoyed getting to work more hands on during the senior design project rather than spending as much time in the classroom. The students were able to see how the manufacturing industry works and develop answers for problems in real time.

“I’m talking with a lot of engineers and soon-to-be engineers and a lot of people are worried about the future, worried about being prepared for the job and having that impostor syndrome,” Grajqevci said. “I feel like knowing that our design works, it gives us confidence that we can do good in the jobs we get.”


Rhiannon Potkey (865-974-0683,