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Students in the 2021 TranSCend program test their floating water pump station on the Tennessee River near campus.

TranSCEnD Program Takes a River Cruise for 2021

The TranSCEnD summer bridge program sailed cool new waters for 2021. For the first few years, the cohort worked on the construction of a solar-powered water heater. This year, they designed and built a floating water intake system, taking inspiration from Central American river communities.

TranSCEnD—Transfer Success Co-Design in Engineering Disciplines—is in its fourth year of supporting students who transfer from Tennessee community colleges to TCE. Cohort participants receive a scholarship and begin their UT engineering education with a summer project before the semester begins.

“They are all in different engineering majors, but come together through our program, which offers this first opportunity to build networks,” said program lead Jenny Retherford, distinguished lecturer in civil and environmental engineering.

They follow this experience with a first-semester course that continues the cohort relationship building and offers insights into the opportunities and supporting programs here at UT.

Distinguished Lecturer Jenny Retherford discusses project design with students in the 2021 TranSCend program.

Distinguished Lecturer Jenny Retherford discusses project design with students in the 2021 TranSCenD program.

“This year we modeled the summer bridge project after a senior design project performed in civil engineering last year,” said Retherford. “A community in Panama gets their drinking water from the river using a floating intake system. This team sought first to replicate their system and to see if we could simply—in three-days’ time—build a similar system.”

The team built a wooden deck on dock floats with a safety rail. Then they explored two schemes for water pumping: a traditional system and a less conventional system.

“We had two different pumps and two different sources of energy,” said Retherford.

The students experimented with the physical process, asking questions such as “Are these easier to manage, easier to use, easier to install?” Then they did a technical exploration with each pump systems, looking at depth criteria to determine which system might be better adapted to shallow or deep rivers.

As a final test, the team launched its floating platform on the Tennessee River upstream from the UT campus.

“They successfully completed the build, replicated the system, and gathered the data for their study,” said Retherford. “They’ll work this fall to analyze the data and come to some thoughtful observations.”

Students in this cohort included Ryan Jones, Jensen Petteway, Kareem Rodriguez, Aiden Seo, Matthew Allison, Austin Allison, Brandon Trent, and Ali Nasser.

Other faculty and staff supporting TranSCEnD include David Keffer, Rachel Ellestad, Mary Kocak, Travis Griffin, Larry Roberts, Andy Baker, and Michael Allen.

“They were instrumental in helping the students perform the work,” said Retherford. “They helped with the design concept and in using the proper tools, with proper PPE, to build the float. Special thanks to Karla Sass from UT Rowing, who hauled our truck out of the river after we stalled it! Too much water in the gas tank is a bad thing!”

This summer’s TranSCEnD cohort was the final summer bridge project funded via a grant from the S-STEM program awarded by the National Science Foundation. The faculty team is exploring options to continue to support transfer students enrolling in TCE, with hopes to develop a complimentary experience through the college.

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