Female Pellissippi State students benefit from attending women engineers conference

Makayla Edwards
Makayla Edwards is one of the Pellissippi State Community College students who attended the recent Society of Women Engineers conference.

Female Pellissippi State Community College students pursuing a career in engineering had the chance to hear from some of the nation’s most prominent women engineers at a recent conference.

“The SWE [Society of Women Engineers] conference was an amazing opportunity,” said Ravenne Hall, one of the students who attended. “The workshops were helpful and thorough. The biggest benefit was to meet all the amazing women who, just like me one day, work in the technical industry. It was very inspiring to see that women really have accomplished amazing feats and are expanding and sharing their great minds with the world.”

The conference took place in Nashville in late October. It highlighted successful female engineers and the realities that women face when they enter traditionally male-dominated fields in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“My experience at the conference was inspirational: just to be around fellow like-minded female engineers who have accomplished so much,” said Makayla Edwards.

“I learned so much, but most important to me was how to negotiate your salary. That’s invaluable information that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life,” said Ines Mena-Solano.

Hall, along with Edwards and Mena-Solano, are recipients of scholarships funded through the Tennessee Community College Space Grant Consortium, part of the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System.

The NASA grant seeks to increase enrollment and retention in STEM fields among women and underrepresented minorities.

“Women only account for about 11 percent of the enrollment in engineering technology programs in Tennessee community colleges,” said Lynn Klett, “even though women make up 61 percent of overall community college enrollment.” Klett manages the NASA grant at Pellissippi State.

“Out-of-classroom experiences like this increase retention rates for our students by encouraging them to build relationships with each other and with their professors,” said Kathleen Scruggs, student completion coach for the NASA grant at Pellissippi State.

In all, nine female Pellissippi State students attended the conference with Scruggs and Klett. The NASA grant covered not only the cost of the conference but also the students’ ongoing membership in the Society of Women Engineers.

Funding provided by the NASA grant comes through the Pellissippi State Foundation. The Foundation works to provide student scholarships and emergency loans, as well as to improve facilities and secure new equipment. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.pstcc.edu/foundation or call (865) 694-6528.

For more information about Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology degree program and concentrations, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400. For more about the Foundation and giving opportunities, call (865) 694-6528 or visit www.pstcc.edu/foundation.

Download this press releaseNASA Scholars Attend Conference

Pellissippi State, Alcoa Foundation partner to give industrial scholarships

Miguel Balladares
Pellissippi State Community College student Miguel Velez Balladares received a scholarship from the Alcoa Foundation that is allowing him to earn his Industrial Maintenance Technology degree.

 

Students in two Engineering Technology concentrations at Pellissippi State Community College are eligible for new scholarship money, thanks to a grant from the Alcoa Foundation.

The Pellissippi State Foundation received $50,000 from the Alcoa Foundation last month. The grant funds scholarships for students in Industrial Maintenance and Automated Industrial Systems, both of which are concentrations in the Engineering Technology degree program, over the next two years.

“These scholarships will empower students to secure the critical skills necessary to obtain a high-skill, high-wage job after earning their degree,” said Peggy Wilson, executive director of the Pellissippi State Foundation and vice president of College Advancement.

Earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Engineering Technology with a concentration in Industrial Maintenance prepares students to work in manufacturing settings as multicraft, industrial machinery maintenance and repair technicians. The Automated Industrial Systems concentration prepares students to work with modern manufacturing control systems, including robotics, electrical systems and industrial process controls.

“These Engineering Technology concentrations are filling the gap that exists between the skills local manufacturing employers need and the skills that potential employees have,” Wilson said. “Student scholarships like those funded by the Alcoa Foundation make a higher education possible for students, whether they’re looking to start out in a promising field, transitioning between jobs or improving their knowledge base.”

“We are excited about Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology program,” said Ken McMillen, Alcoa’s Tennessee operations location manager. “Alcoa is just one of the many manufacturing companies in our community that are expanding and looking for a qualified technical workforce. These scholarships are helping students gain the necessary skills to fill the pipeline and create a qualified workforce for manufacturing jobs.”

Alcoa Foundation grants funded 94 student scholarships in the 2013 and 2014 academic years.

The Alcoa grant funds came through the Pellissippi State Foundation. The Foundation works to provide student scholarships and emergency loans, as well as to improve facilities and secure new equipment.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State earns grant funding to study Knoxville’s Cherokee Caverns

posted in: Academics, Faculty and Staff, Grants, TBR | 0
Cherokee Caverns Anthodites
Anthodites like these are just one of the unique rock formations that Pellissippi State Community College students will study in Cherokee Caverns, thanks to a National Speleological Society grant.

Strange as it might seem, East Tennessee was once quite beachy.

Geologically speaking, this area lay on the floor of a warm, shallow sea 500-plus million years ago, and Pellissippi State Community College students will soon be studying the rock formations and mineral deposits in Knoxville’s Cherokee Caverns that point to the fact that East Tennessee once had a climate similar to that of the Bahamas.

“[Cherokee Caverns] is good exposure to the geological history of East Tennessee and a new way to see your own hometown,” said Kathleen Affholter, associate professor in Natural and Behavioral Sciences at Pellissippi State. “This cave is unique — not just in Tennessee, but in the world. It’s a great outdoor laboratory.”

Affholter and Garry Pennycuff, an associate professor in the same department, recently applied for and were awarded a $750 grant from the National Speleological Society to study the mineralogy of Cherokee Caverns, one of the most geologically unique caves in the world. The cave, despite the effects of vandalism and improper use, is still home to flower-like crystal formations called anthodites and hollow stalactite-like formations that hang from the ceiling and look like bulbous soda straws. There are only a handful of caves around the world that feature anthodites and few others reported to have the bulbous-soda-straw stalactites.

“Tennessee has more caves than any other place in the United States — more than 10,000,” Affholter said. “But Cherokee Caverns is special.”

“When we grow up in a place, we often don’t realize or don’t take advantage of the amazing resources that are around us,” Pennycuff said. “But this amazing cave is right in our students’ backyards.”

The professors say their beginning physical geology, chemistry and environmental geology students will have the opportunity to take field trips to Cherokee Caverns. In class, students will study responsibly collected research samples and have remote access to Florida International University’s scanning electron microscope to analyze those samples. Some of the grant funds will be used to pay for the use of the electron microscope.

The biggest advantage of using an electron microscope over a more common optical microscope is that the electron microscope has a higher resolution and is able to magnify an object up to two million times. Optical microscopes can only magnify up to 1,000-2,000 times.

“So many times, students think of school as one thing and the ‘real world’ as another thing,” said Pennycuff. “But this opportunity lets them conduct real-world tests, explore real-world places and make real observations. This is what science looks like.”

 “For community college students, this is a rare opportunity to have this type of field experience and to use special equipment like the scanning electron microscope,” Affholter said.

The duo hopes the hands-on science experience will teach students the importance of conservation, particularly given Cherokee Caverns’ history. (Today, the cave can be accessed only with the permission of its caretaker.) But more than that, Affholter and Pennycuff hope students take away a love of science.

“Maybe the students will learn terms like ‘anthodites,’ but what’s more important to me is that they see that science is fun,” Affholter said.

“We can’t hide our enthusiasm,” Pennycuff said. “Hopefully, it’s contagious.”

The National Speleogical Society grant funds came through the Pellissippi State Foundation. The Foundation works to provide student scholarships and emergency loans as well as to improve facilities and secure new equipment.

For more information about the Foundation, visit www.pstcc.edu/foundation or call (865) 694-6528. For more information about Pellissippi State and its science and other academic offerings, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

Download a copy of this press release: Cherokee Caverns Grant

Female students at Pellissippi State get career jump-start with engineering internships

Pellissippi State Community College students Kathryne Farris, left, and Gabriela Sabin, right, spent their summers interning at DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee. Pictured with Harris and Sabin is Josh Brady, DENSO section leader in the machinery and tools division.
Pellissippi State Community College students Kathryne Farris, left, and Gabriela Sabin, right, spent their summers interning at DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee. Pictured with Farris and Sabin is Josh Brady, DENSO section leader in the machinery and tools division.

Although women make up about 61 percent of enrollees in Tennessee’s community colleges, they account for only 11 percent of students who enter engineering technology programs.

This summer, Pellissippi State Community College provided three of its female students, two of whom are pursuing an Engineering Technology degree and one who plans to transfer to a four-year institution to major in engineering, with a jump-start on their careers.

Thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Space Grant Consortium, Pellissippi State was able to link all three students with engineering-related internships. The consortium, which is funded by NASA, is made up of five Tennessee Board of Regents community colleges. This is the first time that a NASA Space Grant has been awarded to Tennessee community colleges.

Kathryne Farris, who is in the Mechanical Engineering concentration of the Engineering Technology program, spent her summer working with DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee in Maryville. DENSO is one of the world’s largest automotive parts manufacturers and one of the largest employers in Blount County.

 “I’ve appreciated the inside look at the business side of jobs after graduation — which honestly has been rather terrifying to think of for me,” she said. “This has most definitely helped. My fears of the unknown have been quelled a bit, and I feel like I could enter the workforce after graduation with some extra confidence.”

That’s the goal of the internships, says Lynn Klett, an assistant professor in Engineering Technology and the Pellissippi State faculty member in charge of the grant consortium. Klett also is a mentor to the grant participants.

The Pellissippi State portion of the grant is $110,715, $45,000 of which is earmarked for scholarships to students majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs. The award is meant to boost enrollment among women and other underrepresented groups. The funding paid for the summer internship opportunities as part of the overall scholarship package for each Pellissippi State recipient.

Farris plans to graduate in May 2016. So does scholarship recipient Gabriela Sabin, a Computer Science student. Once she earns her degree at Pellissippi State, she intends to transfer to a university, majoring in engineering. Sabin also interned at DENSO.

“I’ve been shadowing an electrical engineering co-op student who is troubleshooting and powering up a new machine,” she said. “I feel like this internship is giving me useful experience into what working as an electrical engineer would be like. I like knowing that I’ve made something that works and that people will use.”

Makayla Edwards, like Farris, a Mechanical Engineering/Engineering Technology student, will take a different path once she graduates from Pellissippi State. Instead of continuing on to a four-year school, she’ll enter the workforce directly.

“[Earning a two-year degree] is much more hands-on and applicable,” she said. “My internship was at Pellissippi State, where I worked with professor Klett in additive manufacturing. Right now, I have a huge interest in 3D printing.”

This summer, Edwards built her own 3D printer from a kit with the help of Klett and student mentors. Currently, she’s working on the design of a bicycle made from bamboo, which is considered a renewable resource because of its quick growth rate. The moving parts will be made using a 3D printer.

“I would like to think that whatever I do in the future will impact the world in a positive way,” Edwards said. “The internship has given me really useful experience. Without it, I doubt I would have had such a jump-start on 3D printing and CAD [computer-aided design].”

NASA awarded a total of $499,689 to the Tennessee Space Grant Consortium, which is headquartered at Vanderbilt University.

The award is the result of a proposal coordinated and submitted by the Pellissippi State Foundation. In total, the Pellissippi State portion of the grant will provide each of 11 students with a $4,000 scholarship.

In addition, the grant included funds to send a group from each of the community colleges to Florida to compete in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ SoutheastCon robotics event. It also will fund two grant participants to attend the 10-week Summer Robotics Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

For more information about this and other Foundation scholarships, visit www.pstcc.edu/foundation/scholarships or call (865) 694-6528. For information about the Tennessee Space Grant Consortium, email Klett at lbklett@pstcc.edu.

For more information about Pellissippi State and the Engineering Technology program, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

Download the press releaseNASA Scholars Intern

{Click each photograph to access a high-res version}

Makayla Edwards
Makayla Edwards spent the summer interning at Pellissippi State, where she worked with a 3D printer (foreground) to make, among other things, a small plastic lizard.
Gabriela Sabin and Josh Brady
Pellissippi State student Gabriela Sabin with Josh Brady, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee.
Makayla Edwards
Makayla Edwards spent the summer interning at Pellissippi State, where she worked with a 3D printer (foreground).
Pellissippi State student Kathryne Farris with Josh Brady, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee.
Pellissippi State student Kathryne Farris with Josh Brady, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee.
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