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

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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.