TBR honors Richard B. Ray, Blount Memorial Hospital for support of higher education 

Richard Ray at lectern, accepting Regents' Award on Aug. 17, 2021
Richard B. Ray of Knoxville, a co-founder of tnAchieves, accepts the Regents’ Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at Pellissippi State on Aug. 17.

Richard B. Ray of Knoxville, a co-founder of tnAchieves, and Blount Memorial Hospital were honored this month by the Tennessee Board of Regents for their longstanding support of education. Both were nominated by Pellissippi State Community College President L. Anthony Wise Jr. 

Ray received the 2021 Regents’ Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at a Ribbon Cutting Celebration for Pellissippi State’s Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on Aug. 17, while Blount Memorial’s chief executive officer Don Heinemann and board vice chair David Pesterfield accepted the 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at a Blount Partnership event Aug. 25. 

Established in 2001, these awards honor individuals, companies and organizations who go “above and beyond” to donate their resources, finances, and personal time to TBR’s 40 community and technical colleges. 

Wise nominated Ray, co-founder and chief financial officer of 21st Mortgage Corporation, for his commitment to tnAchieves, the college scholarship and mentorship program that pairs volunteer mentors with incoming college students who receive the Tennessee Promise scholarship.  

Not only did Ray found KnoxAchieves, the precursor to tnAchieves, with fellow Knoxville businessmen Randy Boyd, Bill Haslam, Mike Ragsdale and Tim Williams in 2009, but Ray is one of only four tnAchieves volunteers across the state who has served as a mentor every single year. Over the past 12 years, Ray has mentored over 60 students. He drives from his home in west Knoxville to the Carter community in east Knox County to meet with his mentees, and he volunteers every year to teach budgeting at tnAchieves’ Summer Bridge Program at Pellissippi State, which helps incoming students start on a more college-ready level, both academically and socially. 

“Rich Ray was the first in his family to graduate from college,” Wise writes in nominating Ray for the award. “Growing up in east Knoxville, Rich worked his way through the University of Tennessee. He remembers the challenges of working to pay tuition and navigating higher education without a mentor to guide him. Rich says, ‘If you are the first in family to ever go beyond high school, you need someone to tell you it is possible, that you can do it.’” 

Ray and his wife, Jane, also have supported Pellissippi State since 2017, with gifts to the Student Opportunity Fund, which helps the Pellissippi State Foundation assist students in crisis, and to support the expansion of the Strawberry Plains Campus library. The couple also has committed a planned gift to Pellissippi State to continue their support of community college students into the future. 

“Jane and I have been fortunate to contribute to wonderful organizations, but we do focus on education,” Ray said when accepting the award from Regent Danni B. Varlan on Aug. 17. “We firmly believe that to have a better quality of life for our kids in Tennessee, they must be better educated. That begins with K-3 and continues all the way through getting their degrees either at a university or a community college or developing a trade at TCAT, so thank you for this recognition. I appreciate it.” 

Blount Memorial Hospital chief executive officer Don Heinemann, second from left, and hospital board vice chair David Pesterfield, third from left, accept the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Philanthropy on Aug. 25, 2021
Blount Memorial Hospital chief executive officer Don Heinemann, second from left, and hospital board vice chair David Pesterfield, third from left, accept the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy on Aug. 25, from Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., left, and Regent Danni B. Varlan.

Wise nominated Blount Memorial Hospital for the Chancellor’s Award for its longstanding support of Pellissippi State students. In 2001 the hospital established the Blount Memorial Nursing Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a Nursing student from Blount County. The hospital later funded the Nursing simulation lab at the college’s Blount County Campus, helping establish the college’s Nursing program in 2010. More recently Blount Memorial pledged $100,000 to help build the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the Blount County Campus, which is now underway and is scheduled for completion in 2022. 

While Blount Memorial sponsors clinical rotations for Pellissippi State’s Nursing students, last year Pellissippi State helped the hospital train 61 of its medical-surgical nurses in COVID-19 patient care, allowing the hospital to use the Nursing simulation lab on the Blount County Campus to practice scenarios based on actual COVID-19 cases. These COVID-19 trainings were just the beginning of what Pellissippi State and Blount Memorial envision being a year-round partnership, including the possibility of launching a nurse residency program. 

Blount Memorial’s support of Blount County and its people, however, dates to its founding in 1947, when local physicians and philanthropists partnered with ALCOA Inc. to realize the dream of a community hospital. 

“Blount Memorial Hospital is committed to care for the health and well-being of any individual who needs assistance, regardless of their ability to pay,” Wise writes in nominating Blount Memorial for the award. “This ethos permeates the organizational culture, from the greeter at the welcome desk to the most skilled surgeon. As healthcare challenges increase, so does Blount Memorial’s commitment to care for all who need assistance: every child, every senior, every hurting or sick individual, regardless of circumstance.” 

 “It’s truly an honor for Blount Memorial to receive the Chancellor’s Award,” said Heinemann, the hospital’s CEO. “Our work with Pellissippi State is something we’ve cherished over the years, and we’re committed to continuing our efforts to support Pellissippi State students who are planning careers in health care. As we saw just in the last year, our collaboration with Pellissippi State helped us ensure our team was prepared to handle the influx of COVID-19 cases in our community. In a pandemic – or any other time – that’s a win-win for us.” 

Fall classes are now underway at Pellissippi State. For more information about the college or the Foundation, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. 

To apply to be a tnAchieves mentor for the Class of 2022, a commitment of about one hour per month, visit www.tnachieves.org/mentors 

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Pellissippi State’s new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science opens ahead of fall semester

Ribbon cutting for Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science, outside the lobby doors
Pellissippi State Community College Student Government Association President Caitlandt Southall, center with ceremonial scissors, cuts the ribbon for the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus on Tuesday, Aug. 17. Joining her on the front row, from left, are Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Emily House, Regent Danni B. Varlan, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Crissy Haslam and Meg Counts of Pilot Company.

Pellissippi State Community College students in math, science and teacher education courses will return to classes next week in a state-of-the-art new building. 

Denark Construction completed the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus this summer, and a Ribbon Cutting Celebration was held Tuesday, Aug. 17, to celebrate.  

“We made a strategic decision that if we’re going to teach science, mathematics and teacher education, as well as have the ability to offer new programs like Water Quality Technology, we had to make this investment,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “We are really grateful for our partnership with BarberMcMurry Architects in thinking about what this space might look like, not only for teaching and learning inside the classroom, but for the kind of collaboration that is necessary outside the classroom for our students to be successful in working with each other and with their faculty and staff.” 

The new 82,000-square-foot building has been under construction since May 2019. It includes 18 classrooms, six computer labs, nine science labs and a teacher education center for the college’s Early Childhood Education and Teacher Education programs. 

“As I walked around inside the Haslam Center, I was impressed with the meaningful use of space and the attention to detail to better serve our students,” said Pellissippi State alumnus Carlos Gonzalez, who is finishing his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a certificate in teaching at Maryville College. “For example, the Teacher Education Center and the state-of-the-art equipment in the labs — having these resources will keep students competitive in today’s society.” 

Opening the new building allows Pellissippi State to transform its Hardin Valley Campus, Wise added, by thinking about the spaces those programs have vacated and other ways to use them to support other college programs and initiatives. 

Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, for whom the building is named, was on hand Tuesday to tour the new building. As governor of Tennessee from 2011 to 2019, Haslam was key to establishing Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, last-dollar scholarships that provide two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee, and the Haslam Family Foundation and Pilot Company were “Campaign Leaders” for Pellissippi State’s new math and science center, donating between $500,000 and $1 million toward the $27 million project. 

“I was thinking, driving out here, if you were going to pick a perfect location for a community college, you might pick this one,” Haslam said. “You’re strategically located between Oak Ridge and everything that is happening there, Blount County and Knox County. And if you’re going to find a really critical discipline that you want to make certain you have the room to grow and expand, it would be math and science.” 

Exterior of the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science
The Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Class will welcome its first students to class when the college’s fall semester starts Monday, Aug. 23.

Haslam told the audience that he had talked last night with Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and others about how to leverage the area’s assets of ORNL, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee, among others. 

“Among the key tactics to make that happen is the success of Pellissippi State,” Haslam said. “You all feel like I do: that the key to success is giving more folks a chance for education. We’re struggling with a lot of things in this country – a whole lot of things that are dividing us – and to me, the best answer for all of those problems comes back to more opportunity out of great public education. So thank you to all of you who serve, work out here and have been a part of making this happen. I truly am honored by it and always will be.” 

Following the ribbon cutting, Pellissippi State held an open house so that guests could tour the new building. Pellissippi State’s fall 2021 classes start Monday, Aug. 23, as many students return to campus for the first time since March 2020. 

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Pellissippi State offers COVID-19 vaccines at on-campus health fair, open to community

Pax and Nursing student
Pellissippi State Nursing adjunct instructor Pakesta Washington and the college’s panther mascot, Pax, encourage anyone in the community who has not received a COVID-19 vaccine to drop by the Hardin Valley Campus on Aug. 30 for a Vaccinate and Educate Fair.

Still need a COVID-19 vaccine? Pellissippi State Community College will offer free vaccinations, no appointment necessary, at a walk-in Vaccinate and Educate Fair on its Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.  

Mark your calendars now for the health fair, which will be held noon-4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, outside the Bagwell Center for Media and Art. Pellissippi State Nursing faculty and students will be administering both the two-dose Pfizer and one-dose Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines, courtesy of Winbigler Medical.  

Pellissippi State is offering Pfizer as an option so that children ages 12-17 may be vaccinated, so bring the whole family. Those who choose the Pfizer vaccine will be scheduled for their second dose of the vaccine noon-2:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, also on the Hardin Valley Campus. 

Pellissippi State is working with the nonprofit Faith Leaders Initiative and New Directions Healthcare to offer a fair not only for faculty, staff and students, but also for the community after seeing the success of a similar event at the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center in East Knoxville this summer. 

“Pellissippi State and New Directions Healthcare wanted to offer this fair to help the public understand the COVID-19 virus, encourage vaccination and answer questions for students, faculty, staff and our neighbors,” said Angela Lunsford, dean of Nursing for Pellissippi State. “With the Delta variant now showing up in Tennessee, we want to stress the importance of vaccination. COVID-19 is never going away, and we must protect our community by increasing the number of vaccinated people. Wearing masks for the rest of our lives is not the answer; getting vaccinated is the answer to this now endemic virus.” 

Education stations staffed by Pellissippi State Nursing faculty and students will provide information about COVID-19 including handouts explaining what the COVID-19 virus is, how vaccines work to combat it and why common myths about COVID-19 and vaccinations are untrue. 

The event will have the feel, however, of a celebration, with free popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones available for the entire family. 

For more information about the Vaccinate and Educate fair, contact Cynthia J. Finch of the Faith Leaders Initiative at 865-254-4793 or CONNECT Ministries at 865-851-8005. 

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Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State partner for open house on Division Street Campus

Division Street campus exterior
Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State invite the community to an open house 3-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, to check out the nonprofit’s new space on the college’s Division Street Campus, 3435 Division Street, Knoxville.

Centro Hispano, the leading resource for and about East Tennessee’s Latino community, is expanding its services onto Pellissippi State Community College’s Division Street Campus. 

Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State invite the community to an open house 3-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, to check out the nonprofit’s new space. Pellissippi State’s Division Street Campus is located at 3435 Division Street, Knoxville. 

The open house will include music, food and tours of the coeducational space, which includes not only classrooms for Centro Hispano students to receive instruction from Centro Hispano staff and volunteers, but also a dedicated classroom for children of Centro Hispano students as Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State seek to serve entire families. 

“This collaboration is vital because it paves the road for so many Latino adults and their families to become acquainted with spaces of higher education,” said Centro Hispano President and CEO Claudia Caballero, who is Honduran-American. “We want people to see the pathway to higher education and have the opportunities to build relationships with staff at Pellissippi State.” 

Caballero added that moving Centro Hispano classes onto the Division Street Campus also can help foster a sense of belonging by taking the unknown out of Pellissippi State. 

“We want to walk into these spaces and see ourselves [Latinos] here,” she said. “We are home in East Tennessee, and we want to feel a sense of belonging here at Pellissippi State.” 

Pellissippi State’s mission is to provide a transformative environment fostering the academic, social, economic and cultural enrichment of the individual and the community. That mission is guided by a set of institutional values including Community and Civic Engagement and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

Pellissippi State’s partnership with Centro Hispano was underway before the pandemic. The Division Street Campus has been closed since March 2020, but will reopen on Aug. 2, said Division Street Dean Esther Dyer. 

“At Pellissippi State, we take our obligation to serve our community to heart,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “This partnership with Centro Hispano allows us to serve a growing Latino population by providing new opportunities for learning on our Division Street Campus and by illuminating new pathways to postsecondary education. I can’t wait for these classes to begin in a few weeks.” 

By providing Centro Hispano with a larger learning space, Pellissippi State can help Centro Hispano provide not only workforce development classes for the Latino community, but also children’s programs. 

“A Centro team member has always wanted a post-secondary degree, but life, raising children and working a full-time job made it seem impossible to achieve,” Caballero said. “Because of this partnership with Pellissippi State, she can do it all. Her story reflects that of many, and we hope that this project serves as a model for other communities across the Southeast.” 

Classes will begin in Centro Hispano’s new space the week of Aug. 23. For more information on Centro Hispano programs at Pellissippi State, contact info@centrohispanotn.org or call 865-522-0052. 

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East Knoxville, Pellissippi State celebrate longtime Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman

Retired Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman, center, with the sign naming the campus courtyard in her honor June 30, 2021
Longtime Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman, center, stands in the campus courtyard that was named in her honor at a retirement celebration June 30, 2021. Celebrating with her are, from left, her husband, Sheadrick Tillman IV; Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr.; Tillman’s sister, Barbara Phinisee; Tillman; Tillman’s daughter Danielle Tillman; Vice President for Student Affairs Rushton Johnson; Tillman’s daughter Nichole Tillman Carter; and, in front, Tillman’s grandson, Xavier Carter.

The East Knoxville and Pellissippi State Community College communities came together Wednesday, June 30, to honor Rosalyn Tillman, dean of the college’s Magnolia Avenue Campus from when it opened in 2000 until her retirement this spring. 

“A magnificent leader and community influencer,” “one of the pillars and matriarchs of our community,” “a role model,” “a woman of integrity and standards” and “an advocate” were among the words speakers used to describe Tillman at the retirement celebration, held at the Magnolia Avenue Campus. They remembered her tenacity and commitment to making the Magnolia Avenue Campus, the fourth of Pellissippi State’s campuses, a “gleaming institution” for the community. 

“Dean Tillman set a standard for what she wanted this campus to be,” said Phyllis Nichols, president and CEO of Knoxville Area Urban League. “We were not going to be a site sister in East Knoxville. We were going to be a shining example on Magnolia. … The students were going to be proud to walk in these doors.” 

Originally from Chicago, where she taught elementary and middle school, Tillman began her career at Pellissippi State as a math instructor in August 1991 and later served as program coordinator for developmental math, attaining the rank of associate professor of Mathematics. When Pellissippi State purchased the former Knoxville Catholic High School building on Magnolia Avenue, Tillman became the new campus’ first – and only – dean. 

“This was the only east campus (of Pellissippi State) when we opened 20 years ago, and we had the opportunity to serve this community in a way that they had not been served before,” said Tillman. “There was a reluctance at first to come inside a college door, but now they had a place in the neighborhood, and we tried to make them feel comfortable.” 

Not only did Tillman make sure the students who attended the Magnolia Avenue Campus had the same resources and opportunities as those who attended the college’s other campuses, Tillman made sure students knew they could succeed. 

Jan Sharp, now director of Pellissippi State’s Academic Support Center, reflected on what it was like to be a nontraditional, first-generation student at the Magnolia Avenue Campus in spring 2005 with four children at home. 

“On my first day, Rosalyn Tillman comes in with a group of faculty members, and they’re all dressed in full regalia,” Sharp said. “The point of her coming in dressed in that attire was to prove to us that (1) if we work hard enough, graduation was just right around the corner; (2) nothing was going to be handed to us; and (3) we should always ask for help if we need it. … She told us where her office was and to come get her anytime we needed to talk or if we needed assistance with anything. If we couldn’t find something, she would walk us to where we needed to go. And I really looked up to her for that.” 

Tillman remembered a nail technician who came to her office 30 minutes into her first class, complaining, “I can’t do this. I’m too old.” Tillman talked to her, and the student ended up going on to get her degree in education. 

“That always has stayed with me because she was so devastated,” Tillman said. “We have been able to change people’s lives.” 

Longtime Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman addresses the crowd at her retirement celebration June 30, 2021
Longtime Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman addresses the crowd at her retirement celebration June 30, 2021. Tillman served as dean of Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus from the time it opened in 2000 until her retirement this spring.

In addition to serving as dean at the Magnolia Avenue Campus, Tillman served as Pellissippi State coordinator for Project GRAD Knoxville, which brings Austin-East and Fulton high school students to campus each summer to offer students a glimpse of college life. The program has helped boost the average high school graduation rate for Austin-East and Fulton students from 50% to 83%.  

“We give them all kinds of experiences they wouldn’t ordinarily have so that they will think, ‘I can do that,'” Tillman explained. “When they get back (to high school), school isn’t ho-hum. It changes attitudes.” 

Just under 3,000 students have participated in the Project GRAD summer institute under Tillman’s guidance and direction, said Tanisha Fitzgerald-Baker, program and analytics director for Project GRAD. 

“Dean Tillman is so committed and dedicated to the outcome and excellence of our students,” Fitzgerald-Baker said. “The expectations are very rigid, and now right under 3,000 students understand what they can be, where they can be and how they’re going to do it. 

“Even though you try to be behind the scenes, it’s very hard to dim a light meant to shine as bright as you,” she added, to a chorus of “Amen!” from the audience. 

The Rev. Renee Kesler, president and CEO of Beck Cultural Exchange Center, agreed, noting she has lived in the community her entire life and knows the area “like the back of my hand.” 

“You lit up something,” Kesler said to Tillman. “There was some darkness, but you brought the light.” 

Kesler compared Tillman to an unnamed wise woman in the Bible who uses her voice to stand up for her community and save her city from destruction in 2 Samuel. 

“She said, ‘Let me handle this,’ but she didn’t do it by herself – she knew she couldn’t,” Kesler said. “A wise woman knows that if I’m going to be great, I have to surround myself with other great people. And the Bible says she went back to the people, and she had a collaboration meeting. And that’s who you are: the collaborator. You know to bring people together to get it done.” 

Longtime Magnolia Avenue Dean Rosalyn Tillman with her administrative assistant, Patti Rogers
Newly retired Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman takes a moment with her longtime administrative assistant Patti Rogers at a celebration June 30, 2021. Rogers spoke on behalf of the Magnolia Avenue Campus faculty and staff that Tillman led for 21 years.

Not only will Tillman be honored with a memorial brick at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. unveiled Wednesday a sign naming the Magnolia Avenue Campus courtyard in her honor. 

“You sought so many ways to connect the college to the community and the community to the college,” he said. “Not only are we naming the courtyard in your honor, but we will be renovating it and making it accessible to the whole community as a teaching space and learning space. Thank you for giving us your very best.” 

Tillman, who prefers to stay out of the limelight, humbly shared her successes at the Magnolia Avenue Campus with her small but dedicated staff and called her work for Pellissippi State not only her pleasure, but also her passion. 

“I just want to be remembered that I did some good for somebody,” she said. 

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Pellissippi State Motorsports finishes sixth in national competition

Pellissippi State Motorsports founder Christian Boone drives the team's 2021 race car on the college's Hardin Valley Campus June 7.
Pellissippi State Motorsports founder Christian Boone drives the team’s 2021 race car on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus June 7. The team was nearly finished with the car and demonstrating it for supporters at a send-off celebration before the competition in Las Vegas the following week.

Pellissippi State Motorsports headed out to Las Vegas with a car about 110 pounds lighter and 60 horsepower faster than the first one the students designed and raced two years ago. 

They were betting the team’s new car would finish better than their first one did at Formula SAE Michigan in 2019, and they were right. 

Pellissippi State Motorsports finished sixth at Formula SAE Nevada held June 16-19.  

“There were 36 teams, and we finished sixth overall, as well as sixth in the Acceleration event,” said Christian Boone, who was a Pellissippi State student when he founded Pellissippi State Motorsports in 2018 and now serves as an engineering lab technician at the college. He is finishing his Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Tennessee. 

Pellissippi State was, again this year, the only community college in the competition that brings university undergraduate and graduate students together to compete with small, formula-style vehicles that they have conceived, designed, fabricated and developed themselves. The team finished ahead of larger four-year universities including Purdue, West Virginia and Mississippi State, among others. 

“Our biggest surprise for everybody (in 2019) was not that we were the only community college in the competition, but that we were a first-year team,” Boone said. “The chief design judge said our car was the best first-year car he had seen.” 

An issue with the engine, however, tripped up the team in 2019, and Pellissippi State Motorsports finished 95th of 109 teams that year, with an overall score of 181.4. This year’s car finished with an overall score of 378.7, an improvement of nearly 200 points. 

Boone said from the moment the 2019 competition ended that the team’s main objective moving forward was to reduce the weight of the race car from 578 pounds with fuel/without a driver. With the 2020 competition canceled due to COVID-19, the team regrouped and started working on the 2021 car in August, despite the ongoing pandemic. 

“We’re down to 465 pounds now by incorporating lighter materials and being more careful with the choice of hardware we make (internally),” Boone said at a send-off celebration for the team June 7. “We also have a launch traction control that will help us get off the line quicker.” 

“This team took what they learned from their first car and adjusted, and it looks great,” Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. said June 7, checking out the new car. “It’s going to be exciting to put it on the track.” 

The 2021 competition was hot – literally. After temperatures reached 115 degrees in Las Vegas and several competitors passed out from the heat, Formula SAE Nevada revised the schedule. Instead of teams having 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m. each day to get their cars to pass tech and safety checks and then complete the competition’s four events, the window was shorted to 5:30 a.m.-2 p.m. after the first day, said Associate Professor Lynn Klett, the team’s faculty advisor. 

“They did great despite the oppressive heat and aggressive schedule,” she said. “Temperatures were 115 and higher every day.”   

The shortened schedule knocked 14 teams out of competition, as their cars never made it out of tech, according to the Formula SAE Nevada results. Tech includes about a 15-page inspection, Boone explained. 

The Pellissippi State Motorsports club at competition in Las Vegas in June 2021
Pellissippi State Motorsports and their faculty advisor, Associate Professor Lynn Klett (third from right on the back row) take a minute to pose with their finished race car at Formula SAE Nevada in June. The team finished sixth in the competition.

“For Formula SAE, you design the car around a set of rules, and Formula SAE goes through everything to make sure your car is rules-compliant — everything from the firewall and the seats to the chassis and every critical fastener,” he said. “We came prepared and got through our tech inspection really quick.” 

Pellissippi State wasn’t spared all the effects of the Las Vegas heat wave, however. During the Acceleration event, which measures the time it takes each car to travel 75 meters, Pellissippi State’s fan broke, causing the car to overheat after one run on the Acceleration course.  

While Pellissippi State’s time of 4.5 seconds still netted the team a sixth-place finish in the Acceleration event, that 4.5 seconds was only 4/10 of a second away from a first-place finish, Boone noted — and the car had been testing at 4.1 seconds on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus. 

“I think we could have won if we had another run, but we had to let the car cool down,” he said. 

Pellissippi State fixed the fan and went on to compete in the other four events: Skid Pad, which tests each car’s cornering capability on a figure-8-shaped course; Autocross, which tests how fast each car can make it around an open course; and Endurance and Efficiency, which test each car’s overall reliability on a 22-kilometer closed course, as well as how much fuel is used during the run. 

“When we got there at 6 a.m., it was already 95 degrees,” Boone said. “We were worried about the temperatures, but we managed to keep the car 5 degrees below where the ECU (engine control unit) would have cut off the engine.” 

In the end, Pellissippi State was one of few teams in the competition that got to finish all the events, which made Boone proud. 

“With the car we had, we did the best we could have done,” he said after the team returned from competition. “There were some technical things we did with the car that we could do differently next time, but this was a good team with good organization and good communication at the competition. Everyone had a job to do.” 

Pellissippi State students attending the competition this year included Daniel Ray (powertrain performance), Daniel Rasmussen (composite materials specialist), Ethan Crisp (electrical capstone student) and Zachary Koller (co-captain).  

They were joined by UT students Clayton Hickey and Charles Brush, both of whom previously attended Pellissippi State, as well as UT students Charlie LindeJeff Cargile and Cooper Jenkins. Cargile and Jenkins designed the race car’s aerodynamic package as their senior design project with fellow UT Aerospace Engineering student Gavin Jones. 

All UT students who serve on the team do so as volunteers and pay their own way to competition. 

Other Pellissippi State Motorsports team members who worked on the car but did not travel to the competition this year include George Johnson IV of Pellissippi State and Forrest Hamilton, a dual enrollment student who completed his Associate of Applied Science in Welding Technology while completing high school at Knox County’s Career Magnet Academy. 

“A lot of it has not been easy, but it was definitely a great experience,” Hamilton said. “There was a lot of going to school and going to work and then coming here and welding for six to eight hours, but it feels good to see so much of it finished. A lot of welding is not small diameter tubes so this has given me so much more confidence.” 

Pellissippi State Motorsports is a college-sponsored student club that could not do what it does without additional help from sponsors such as Barton Racing, Daycab Company, Norm and Ann Naylor, Gene Haas Foundation, Dave and Lynne Blair, Morlind Engineering, BHS Corrugated and Endeavor Composites. 

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‘The future is in their hands’: Fulton High School students learn hands-on machining at Pellissippi State

Fulton grads show President Wise and Project GRAD executive director what they've learned at ACE boot camp
2021 Fulton High School graduates Krishev Patel, left, and Alexander Gaspar Manuel show Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. and Project GRAD Executive Director Ronni Chandler what they’ve learned during a hands-on machining boot camp June 11.

Five Fulton High School teens – three 2021 graduates and two rising seniors – were among the first high school students in the country to participate in a hands-on boot camp to learn machining at Pellissippi State Community College last week. 

The five-day boot camp was part of the America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) training program developed by IACMI – The Composites Institute and University of Tennessee Professor Tony Schmitz, who was teaching the same boot camp to students and adults at UT. 

Pellissippi State and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are partnering with IACMI and UT in the U.S. Department of Defense-funded program, which is designed to teach essential machining skills and address the nation’s growing manufacturing workforce gap. The program kicked off in December 2020 and already more than 1,450 students from across the nation — including future manufacturing engineers, machine tool designers, entrepreneurs, machinists and more — have taken the online course that preceded these hands-on trainings, where students produced the components necessary to create an oscillating air engine by machining and assembling four parts: base (aluminum), piston block (aluminum), valve block (printed polymer) and wheel (steel). 

“This is an exciting time; manufacturing is not what it used to be,” IACMI CEO John Hopkins told the five Fulton students at Pellissippi State on Friday. “I hope you’ve learned what manufacturing is, what machining is and that you will build on this and share your experiences.” 

Associate Professor Mark Williams of Pellissippi State’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program agreed that manufacturing suffers from a misunderstanding of what machinists do. 

“The image that manufacturing was dark and dirty – that’s not true anymore,” he said. “We have to change that image, and a big part of that is getting students in here, hands on, and getting them interested.  

“When the kids started Monday, they hadn’t even used a hand drill before, and I thought, ‘That’s perfect!’” Williams added. “Now they’re doing things they didn’t think they could do. They’ve learned they can do this, they can overcome obstacles, they can achieve this.” 

Training the next generation of machinists is imperative as Baby Boomers in the industry, those born between 1946 and 1964, retire in large numbers. Combined with a growing manufacturing sector, young machinists are in high demand, noted Andy Polnicki, MegaLab director for Pellissippi State. 

“Jobs4TN has over a dozen machinist listings right now, plus a dozen listings for CNC (computerized numerical control), all within a 25-mile radius of Pellissippi State,” he said. “Local manufacturers have job openings for entry-level machinists beginning at $20 an hour right now. With the level of knowledge these kids have gained this week, they could almost go get a $20 an hour job – that’s $40,000 a year – to stand in front of these machines and run them. 

“We’ve spent decades telling people they need a four-year college education, but parents should know the highest paid people in my plant were the tool and die and maintenance people, and they were taking home more money than I was as the plant manager – and worked fewer hours than I did,” Polnicki added. 

The five Fulton High students – 2021 graduates Joselynne Orta, Krishiv Patel and Alexander Gaspar Manuel and rising seniors Kaylee Nava Sabino and Alexandria Russell — showed off their new machining skills Friday to Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Project GRAD Executive Director Ronni Chandler and Knox County Diversity Development Manager Darris Upton, as well as IACMI leaders. 

“Every one of them has done an excellent job running the machines,” said Jose Nazario, an instructor with Pellissippi State’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program. “It’s been really impressive.” 

Joselynne Orta shows Darris Upton a part she made at ACE boot camp
2021 Fulton High School graduate Joselynne Orta, left, shows Knox County Diversity Development Manager Darris Upton the part she just finished making on a computer numerical control (CNC) machine at Pellissippi State June 11.

As Orta ran one machine Friday, Nazario explained that the same work done by hand would take hours, whereas the CNC machine Orta was using only took eight minutes. Upton noted how the students were able to run machines at Pellissippi State while their instructors explained the processes to Friday’s guests. 

“These programs are very important, and the reason is two-fold,” said Upton, who graduated from Pellissippi State in 2015. “If you’ve never been exposed to this kind of work, you might not even know that these career opportunities exist. And it also helps our local employers like DENSO that need workers, people who have the skills that our manufacturers are actually using. They need folks who can do this.” 

Two of the 2021 Fulton High graduates – Orta and Patel – already are enrolled in Pellissippi State this fall: Orta to study Business and Patel to study Web Technology. The other, Manuel, is enrolled at UT for fall and plans to study Computer Engineering. 

“I really enjoyed this class, and now they even want me on the Pellissippi State Motorsports team,” Orta said, adding she plans to join the Pellissippi State students who build race cars for Formula SAE competitions like the one in Las Vegas this week. “I like cars, and I like this too.” 

The rising seniors, Russell and Sabino, also said they found the boot camp “interesting” and showed off the parts they made featuring their initials on one side and the acronym ACE on the other. 

“This week has let them touch the future in an accessible way,” said Chandler, with Project GRAD, holding a part the students created on the machines Friday while she and other guests watched. “They weren’t afraid. The college took a chance on letting high school students use this multimillion-dollar lab, and the students saw that they can be here. It’s been future changing. The future is in their hands.” 

For more information on ACE, which includes a six-hour online curriculum before hands-on training, visit www.iacmi.org/ace. 

For more information on Pellissippi State’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program, visit www.pstcc.edu/mechanical-engineering/. 

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Pellissippi State hosts Remake Learning Day on May 22 with DENSO, ORNL, more

Brian Davis of Danny Davis Electric, right, shows students how to run electrical wire at Pellissippi State's Blount County Campus
Brian Davis, right, of Danny Davis Electric shows students how to run electrical wire at Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus during a spring break exploration camp in 2021. The Blount County Campus will host a free Remake Learning Day on May 22 for children and their parents to explore career readiness, science, technology and construction.

After a challenging year for education, Remake Learning Days Across America returns this spring in more than 17 regions, with family-friendly learning events designed to engage caregivers, parents and children around the country.  

Remake Learning Day in Blount County will take place 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at Pellissippi State Community College’s Blount County Campus2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Friendsville.

This free, in-person event is designed for parents and caregivers to learn alongside their kids and offer relevant and engaging educational experiences for youth (pre-K through high school).  Remake Learning Day is an interactive fair designed to help develop kids’ sense of creativity and curiosity.

This year’s event highlights the learning themes of career readiness, science, technology and construction. Some of the local businesses and organizations involved include DENSO, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Home Depot and Pellissippi State 

For more information, contact Joy McCamey at jlmccamey@pstcc.edu or visit https://remakelearningdays.org/knoxville 

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Remake Learning Days Across America is led by Remake Learning, a network that ignites engaging, relevant and equitable learning practices in support of young people navigating rapid social and technological change. National partners of RLDAA include PBS Kids, Digital Promise, Common Sense Media, Learning Heroes and Noggin. RLDAA is generously supported by The Grable Foundation, The Hewlett Foundation, Schmidt Futures and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Visit remakelearning.org for more information or follow RL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For more information specifically on Remake Learning Days Across America, visit remakelearningdays.org or follow RLDAA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the hashtag #RemakeDays. 

Pellissippi State welcomes walk-ups to vaccination clinic

Cars lined up at Pellissippi State's vaccination clinic on April 9
Drivers line up for their COVID-19 vaccinations at Pellissippi State’s drive-thru vaccination clinic on the college’s Blount County Campus on Friday, April 9. When the clinic reopens Friday, April 23, Pellissippi State will welcome those without an appointment starting at 1 p.m. each day the clinic is open, in an effort to not waste any leftover vaccine.

Pellissippi State Community College will welcome those without appointments to its drive-thru vaccination clinic starting at 1 p.m. each day the clinic is open. 

Pellissippi State’s vaccination clinic will be held 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays on the college’s Blount County Campus, 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Friendsville. The clinic is administering the Moderna vaccine starting Friday, April 23. 

While Pellissippi State encourages you to sign up for an appointment herethose without appointments are welcome to drop by the vaccination clinic at 1 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to receive a shot if vaccine is available. The college is committed to not letting any open vials of vaccine go to waste.  

Vaccinations are free, and you must be 18 years old to receive the Moderna vaccine. Those who register for appointments in advance only need to schedule your first dose of Moderna. Pellissippi State staff will schedule you for your second dose when you arrive for your vaccination. 

Second appointments will be set 28 days after the first vaccination is given. 

For more information about the college’s vaccination clinic, including forms Pellissippi State asks that you fill out and print in advance of your appointment, visit www.pstcc.edu/vaccine. 

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Pellissippi State plans outdoor in-person Commencement ceremonies

Eustace in cap and gown with diploma
Eustace Muriithi built on the diploma in electrical engineering he earned in Kenya by graduating from Pellissippi State with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology in December 2020.

Pellissippi State Community College will celebrate its 2020 and 2021 graduates in a series of smaller, outdoor Commencement ceremonies this May. 

The college has not held an in-person Commencement since December 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Eight separate ceremonies, capped at 85 graduates and two guests per graduate, are planned for Thursday-Saturday, May 13-15. Each ceremony will take place in the Hardin Valley Campus Courtyard, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. 

All Commencement ceremonies will be livestreamed to allow family and friends who cannot attend in person to celebrate with graduates.   

Students who graduated at any point during 2020 are welcome to join ceremonies at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13. 

Those Pellissippi State students graduating in spring 2021 with Associate of Arts, Associate of Fine Arts, Associate of Science or Associate of Science in Teaching degrees – typically those students who transfer to four-year institutions – may choose to participate in ceremonies at 1, 4 or 7 p.m. on Friday, May 14. 

Those Pellissippi State students graduating in spring 2021 with Associate of Applied Science degrees – the two-year career programs to prepare students to enter the workforce – will be celebrated on Saturday, May 15, with Nursing students at 10 a.m., Engineering and Media Technology students at 1 p.m. and Business and Computer Technology students at 4 p.m. 

“It is well understood that students may not be able to attend the ceremony for which they are scheduled due to personal or family obligations,” said Dean of Students Travis Loveday. “In that case, 2021 graduates may attend any ceremony that has openings. 

Registration for all ceremonies opened at 8 a.m. Friday, April 16, on Eventbrite, and registration is not only for those graduating. Faculty, staff and guests should register for the ceremony they plan to attend, as all seats are reserved on a first come, first served basis: 

In the event of inclement weather, ceremonies and graduates will move inside to the Clayton Performing Arts Center. While social distancing guidelines would prevent guests from joining graduates in the CPAC, guests would be able to view a live stream of the ceremonies from the Goins Administration Building. 

For more information about when to check in for the ceremonies, where to enter campus and park, and what graduates and guests will need to do to follow Pellissippi State’s COVID-19 safety protocols, visit www.pstcc.edu/graduation 

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