Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee made a stop in Knoxville Aug. 30 to check in on the success of a grant program that has provided nearly $2 million to Pellissippi State Community College to aid in further development of vocational and information technology education.
Lee announced in November that Pellissippi State would for the second year be the beneficiary of a Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE 2.0) grant. One award in the amount of $786,284 was provided to help expand Pellissippi State’s advanced manufacturing program. A second award of $994,164 was provided to expand the reach of the information technology program from Knox County to Blount County.
Driving a lap in Pellissippi State Motorsports’ Formula SAE race car gave Lee a real-world demonstration of how that money is being spent.
“We are really, really focused on pathways to success for young people,” Lee said before donning his race helmet and finding his seat in the car that measures just less than eight feet long and six feet wide.
“I had a race car when I was a kid, but it’s been a long time,” he said, grinning as he climbed out of the car after his lap. “That was awesome.”
Lee, along with Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and a group of state legislators and representatives from the Tennessee Board of Regents, also toured Pellissippi State’s Mechanical Engineering Technology lab. The lab is an instrumental part of the training students receive in fluid and applied mechanics, electrical fundamentals and computer-aided drafting and design.
Since January 2022, Pellissippi State has hosted 2,270 middle and high school students in career exploration activities within the areas of advanced manufacturing and information technology. Fifty-nine students earned industry recognized certifications, and the college has developed two new advanced manufacturing dual credit courses offered in fall 2023.
During that same time, dual enrollment in the advanced manufacturing programs has increased by 16% and participation in dual enrollment information technology-related courses has increased by 45%.
Ethan Crisp, an electrical engineering technology graduate who also has earned certificates in advanced manufacturing and industrial automation, told Lee about his unique experience with the race car that has given Pellissippi State a presence at national competitions where no other community colleges were represented.
“The main idea behind the competition is to operate like an engineering and design firm – to create and design a race car that you could then bring to a large-scale manufacturer,” Crisp said. “Being able to build a car from the ground up is super rare.”
Crisp’s studies are also helping him acquire marketable skills. Pellissippi State Motorsports alumni have gone on to work for Honda Research and Design, Tesla and Toyota Research and Design, DENSO, Fastech Motorsports and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“What you’re doing here is really important,” Lee said. “When you finish school, you are job ready and employable in a really cool field that you like.”