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Tackling COVID-19 with the Volunteer Spirit

Like many aspects of life around the world, the rapid rise and spread of COVID-19 altered the way our college operated in spring 2020, but it hasn’t altered our Volunteer Spirit. Engineering Vols have been hard at work helping others through volunteer efforts, novel research focused on COVID-19, creative student support efforts, and other big ideas that are helping us all get through this pandemic.

Face Shield Initiative

In a matter of weeks, Tickle College of Engineering faculty, students, and staff helped produce more than 5,000 frames for face shields, all of which came about through various people volunteering their time, machines, and material, with no thought of personal reward beyond helping their neighbors around the state and beyond.

Those involved include UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya, who continues to coordinate the effort, as well as:

  • More than two dozen students took part in the effort using their own machines at home;
  • Vanina Ghossein, Stephen Sheriff, Alex Stiles, and Nitilaksha Hiremath, from the Fibers and Composites Manufacturing and Engineering Annex;
  • Tom Duong, TCE Innovation and Collaboration Studio
  • Matthew Young, TCE MakerLab
  • Additional faculty and staff labs led by Caleb Rucker, Chad Duty, Brett Compton, and Doug Aaron of MABE;
  • Chris Wetteland, MSE;
  • Craig Gillam and Maged Guergis, College of Architecture and Design’s Fab Lab;
  • Mark Dadmun and Michael Kilbey, Department of Chemistry;
  • Jamie Finney, Brian Gard, and Jeff Wattenbarger, Office of Emergency Management, and from local citizen Nathan Frazier.

Uday’s team hopes to work with ORNL to ramp up production of a new mask (currently in design and tooling) to 8,000 per day, eventually. Having helped meet state and local needs, the team has seen an outpouring of interest from around the country and is working to help coordinate with those individuals—many of whom are UT alums who saw how the university was helping—to make sure their needs are met, with requests ranging from South Carolina to Washington.


Latest News

Knox County Mayor Visits the ICS Lab

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs visited the Innovation and Collaboration Studio to get a first hand look at the work they are doing to produce face shields.

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Disease-Resistant Buildings and Infrastructure for Resilience to COVID-19

Qiang He and Shuai Li are working to pursue a unique and novel strategy to fight COVID-19—disease-resistant buildings resilient to pathogen transmission.

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Nuclear Department Succeeds Despite Pandemic

Nuclear engineering students and faculty persevered with the Volunteer Spirit to make sure students had what they needed to succeed and to create a sense of community.

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UT Labs Producing Face Shield Components to Protect Health Care Workers in Tennessee

Faculty, staff, and students from the college have teamed up with colleagues from all around the university to 3D print face shields for medical professionals.

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UT to Help Study Transit, Bike Sharing, and E-scooter Sharing in Nashville and Portland during Pandemic

Candace Brakewood and Chris Cherry have received funding from the National Science Foundation to research how people are using transportation methods during the current pandemic.

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The Man Behind the Mask

Peter Tsai, the longtime research faculty member of the Department of Material Science and Engineering, is the man behind the N95 mask—now out of retirement working on how to safely reuse them.

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UT Provided Data Used by Governor Lee in Stay-at-Home Order

Civil and environmental engineering professor Lee Han worked with the TDOT to help Governor Bill Lee make a data informed decision on whether to issue a stay-at-home order.

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Student Support Initiatives

  • All advising went virtual, with advisors actively reaching out to students to connect with them to check on them and continue being future focused for later semesters.
  • For senior design: drop-shipping supplies directly to student’s permanent addresses as appropriate to help continue work on prototypes for their capstone designs.
  • A list of frequently asked questions was set up to help TCE students, faculty, and staff find quick answers.
  • Surveys to current students were distributed to help ascertain issues to be remedied.
  • Prospective and admitted students have been invited to attend and observe virtual classes and ask questions of the faculty members after the class. Additionally, college ambassadors are available to conduct Zoom meetings with prospective parents and families to help answer their questions and show them around the college virtually.

Class Crashes

Several notable TCE alums stepped up to drop into some classes to surprise unsuspecting students, share words of encouragement, and answer questions.

Josh Dobbs

Chad Holliday

General Mike Holmes

John D. Tickle

Vols Helping Vols

Volunteers Stepping up to Serve

As the nation adjusts to social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures, many University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alumni are pitching in to help neighbors cope with the challenges of the health crisis.

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Get Involved

Many of you may be thinking about the university and how our students, in particular, are being impacted by this coronavirus pandemic. Learn how alumni can get involved and show their Volunteer Spirit.


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