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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Apply by July 31 to start Pellissippi State’s Nursing program in January

A group of nursing students stand in lab holding IV tubes
Pellissippi State Nursing students learn how to hang IV fluids in a skills lab at the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus in January 2020.

Nurses were, without a doubt, one of the breakout heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you have what it takes to be a hero? 

Pellissippi State Community College has started a spring Nursing cohort that begins January 2022. The program is offered on the college’s Blount County, Magnolia Avenue and Strawberry Plains campuses. 

Applications are due July 31. You can find the steps to apply at www.pstcc.edu/nursing/apply. 

No previous medical experience is required, although the college offers a separate Bridge program that allows Licensed Practical Nurses and paramedics to “bridge” to Registered Nurse. 

By creating a spring cohort that begins in January, Pellissippi State can offer the same quality Nursing program to an additional 50 students. Applicants may indicate their preferred campus. 

Those Nursing students who begin in January 2022 can expect to graduate in December 2023. The 22-month program is primarily Nursing classes, with eight general education courses required. Students complete clinicals each semester of the program as well. 

After graduation, students sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which each nurse in the United States and Canada must pass to become a registered nurse. All 70 of Pellissippi State’s spring 2020 Nursing graduates passed their national licensing exam on their first attempt, the first time the college has achieved a 100% pass rate since the Nursing program started in 2011. 

“Most Nursing students, I’d say 98 or 99%, have secured a job prior to graduating,” said Dean of Nursing Angela Lunsford. “We have hospitals calling us all the time to recruit. They need people.” 

Criteria used to assess candidates are: 

  • Overall GPA in required general education courses (minimum 2.5 GPA)  
  • HESI A2 nursing entrance exam scores 
  • Extra weight will be given for required math and science courses completed with a grade of B or higher 
  • Extra weight will be given for any higher education degree earned previously 

To learn more about Pellissippi State’s Nursing program, visit www.pstcc.edu/nursing. 

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Graduate spotlight: 10 high schoolers graduate from Pellissippi State this week

CMA seniors who are graduating from Pellissippi State around a painted rock on their high school campus
A pandemic didn’t deter these Career Magnet Academy seniors from finishing their associate degrees while earning their high school diplomas. From left are Arwen Roach, Kynlea Waldrop, Sophie Trent, Eli Elgin, Forrest Hamilton, Dylan West, Nathan Parker and Rondhea Martin. Not pictured are Josie Maynard and Jessamine Reckard.

Ten Knox County high school students will don their caps and gowns three weeks before their classmatesas they graduate from Pellissippi State Community College with their associate degrees before they earn their high school diplomas. 

This is the fourth and, by far, largest class of dual enrollment students to earn their associate degrees at Pellissippi State while completing high school at Career Magnet Academy, a public high school located on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus. No students are zoned for CMA, and any Knox County student who wants to make significant progress toward an associate degree, at little to no cost to their families, may apply. 

“I knew CMA was a good fit for me because I knew (Advanced Placement) classes would stress me out and I wanted something more tangible as an end result,” said Sophie Trent of south Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and is transferring to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to study biology. “Also, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, and this is a really big head start on that.” 

Rondhea Martin of east Knoxville also said he chose CMA because he already knew what career path he wanted to pursue. 

I came for business-related purposes and got to take my first college-level business class my junior year,” said Martin, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and is transferring to Middle Tennessee State University to study public relations. 

Most of the 10 CMA students who are graduating from Pellissippi State together grew up in different parts of town and went to different elementary and middle schools – but at CMA, they say they found their people. 

“Here everybody fits in,” said Kynlea Waldrop of west Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and plans to double major in marketing and recording industry, music business at MTSU. “You can come from anywhere and make friends.” 

Having only 53 students in their senior class contributes to that “tightknit” “family” feeling the teenagers describe – but the 10 students who have earned their associate degrees have also formed a bond through the unique experience of finishing community college and high school at the same time. 

CMA grad Josie Maynard
Josie Maynard is one of 10 Career Magnet Academy seniors who has earned her associate degree while completing high school.

“It has certainly been difficult,” said Josie Maynard of south Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Science degree and plans to work as a licensed certified nurse assistant until she transfers to the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in August. “I personally have not had a summer break in three years! It is a lot of work, but it is worth it.” 

Eli Elgin and Forrest Hamilton agreed. The two students from northeast Knoxville have been friends since third grade, and both have earned their Associate of Applied Science degrees in Welding Technology. 

“I’ve been taking six classes for the last few semesters, and it’s tiring,” said Hamilton, who is transferring to Ferris State University in Michigan to study welding engineering technology. “Trying to keep on track with things while also having a life outside of school could be difficult.” 

Elgin recalled one semester that the two friends were on campus 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. two days a week, due to the timing of their high school and college classes. 

“I go to school four days a week, and then spend two or three days a weekend working in landscaping,” he added. “But now I’m ready to go straight into the workforce, and that was the point.” 

Meanwhile, unlike a lot of students coming straight from high school, the CMA graduates who are continuing their education at four-year universities will know what they’re in for. 

“Traditional public school is very rigid and structured,” said Dylan West of Farragut, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and is transferring to the Colorado School of Mines to major in petroleum engineering. “When we started our Pellissippi State classes, there was a period of transition from having teachers stay on you about assignments to being self-reliant.” 

Arwen Roach, who lives near Knoxville Center Mall and has earned her Associate of Arts degree, found that her greatest challenge was her own shyness – and taking Pellissippi State classes helped her conquer her fears. 

“It was really just my timidity being around adults,” said Roach, who is transferring to UT to study psychology and neuroscience. “But once I got over that, it was great. 

Her classmates agreed. 

“I really enjoyed having classes with adult students, actually, because I found them more interesting to talk to,” said Nathan Parker of Old North Knox, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and also is transferring to UT to study psychology. 

CMA senior Jessamine Reckard in front of Sunsphere
Jessamine Reckard of Career Magnet Academy will graduate from Pellissippi State on Friday with seven of her high school classmates. Two will graduate Saturday in a ceremony for Welding Technology students.

Jessamine Reckard, who lives near Johnson University, said the Pellissippi State class that touched her the most was American Sign Language. 

“I have cochlear implants – I’m hard of hearing – so to be immersed in that class and get to learn the language was amazing,” said Reckard, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and is transferring to Lipscomb University to study mechanical engineering. “Going to Tennessee School for the Deaf and getting to work with deaf kids is one of the most surreal and best experiences of my life.” 

While most of the CMA seniors took their Pellissippi State classes on the Strawberry Plains Campus, some had the opportunity to take in-person classes at the Hardin Valley Campus as well. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, most Pellissippi State classes moved online. 

That didn’t stop the CMA seniors, who overwhelmingly said they loved asynchronous classes that they could take on their own time. 

“We could work more to save money so that we can transfer to a university,” Waldrop noted. 

The CMA students also raved about Pellissippi State’s tutoring center on the Strawberry Plains Campus. 

“These children are so amazing, and their perseverance is incredible,” said Ann Orpurt, the CMA guidance counselor who helped the students choose their classes. “They had to take extra classes in the mornings, in the evenings and in the summer to make this happen.” 

A majority of CMA students graduate with between 24 and 45 college credit hours, which is no small feat, she added. 

“Kids typically want to take as many classes as they qualify for,” Orpurt explained, noting CMA students no longer are confined to choosing a particular pathway but can take any Pellissippi State class offered. “These children did extra, but the other children at CMA are just as amazing.” 

Eight of the 10 CMA seniors will walk at the 7 p.m. Friday, May 14, Commencement ceremony on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus while Elgin and Hamilton will walk at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15, with their fellow Welding Technology graduates. CMA will hold its graduation on June 5. 

“This is a monumental moment for these 10 remarkable students and for those at Pellissippi State and in Knox County Schools who have worked so hard to make Career Magnet Academy an option for students,” said Spencer Joy, dual enrollment specialist at Pellissippi State. 

Eight Career Magnet Academy seniors who are graduating from Pellissippi State
Eight of the 10 Career Magnet Academy seniors who will graduate from Pellissippi State with their associate degrees this week include (front row, from left) Rondhea Martin, Dylan West, Eli Elgin, Nathan Parker and Forrest Hamilton; and (second row, from left) Arwen Roach, Kynlea Waldrop and Sophie Trent. Not pictured are Josie Maynard and Jessamine Reckard.

The 10 friends may be heading in mostly different directions – two are transferring to MTSU and three to UT – but they won’t forget where they got their start. Waldrop summed it up for the group: 

“I tell everyone I know to come to CMA!” 

CMA can accept 125 freshmen each year, and there are still 60 slots open for fall 2021. The school accepts older students as space is available. Those interested in attending CMA can apply now at https://transapp.knoxschools.orgThe application deadline is July 2. 

For more information about CMA, contact CMA Magnet Facilitator Cameron Molchan at 865-622-3800 or cameron.molchan@knoxschools.org. 

For more information about other dual enrollment opportunities at Pellissippi State, visiwww.pstcc.edu/admissions/dual. 

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Pellissippi State graduate teaches new Welding for Artists class this summer

Liz Headrick welds an artwork
Liz Headrick, owner of Fabuliz Fabrication and Welding, will teach a one-day Welding for Artists noncredit course twice this month at Pellissippi State Community College.

Pellissippi State Business and Community Services is offering a new Welding for Artists class this summer, taught by a graduate who used her Welding Technology degree to start a creative business. 

Liz Headrick, Class of 2017, is teaching the noncredit Welding for Artists twice this summer: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, July 18, and Saturday, July 25, at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, Knoxville. 

As a lifelong learning class, Welding for Artists iopen to the public, though some welding knowledge and beginner experience is recommended. The cost is $89. 

“I hope people taking the class will get a cool experience and the opportunity to create something they never would have thought about previously or never had the equipment to make,” Headrick said. “Everyone will get to create a one-of-a-kind piece they can take home and show off.” 

Headrick discovered her interest in welding at just the right time. Shortly after taking a welding class at a community college in California, Headrick moved to Knoxville and enrolled in the newly formed Welding Technology program at Pellissippi State. 

“My husband bought me a welder as a graduation present,” Headrick noted. “At first, I didn’t have anything that needed welding, so I just took random nuts and bolts lying around the garage as an excuse to do something with it, and it stuck.” 

When Headrick began posting photos of her work on Facebook and Instagram three years ago, people started to reach out to her, wanting her to make custom pieces for them. That’s when Headrick’s businessFabuliz Fabrication and Welding, took off. 

“It’s almost to the point now where my full-time job gets in the way of being at home making creative pieces,” she joked. 

Artwork by Liz Headrick
Pellissippi State Welding Technology graduate Liz Headrick makes art from repurposed materials.

Using recycled scrap metal has always been a part of Headrick’s work. She repurposes materials — nuts and bolts, old saw blades, chains, spark plugs and more — to create one-of-a-kind metal art and décor. 

“I like finding materials that people were throwing away or are considered as junk and using those materials to make something interesting or something you wouldn’t have thought to use it for,” Headrick said. “People throw away so much! I’m able to find a lot of materials from yard sales and eBay.” 

To register for Welding for Artists or any other Pellissippi State lifelong learning classes this summer, contact the Business and Community Services office at 865.539.7167 or visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs 

Lifelong learning classes are following new safety precautions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Masks or face coverings must be worn by all instructors and students for the duration of the class. Classes also are being held in larger classrooms to ensure that participants can maintain 6 feet of distance between each other. 

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Pellissippi State creates protective face shields for Covenant Health

Employees assemble face shields in the Strawberry Plains Campus MegaLab
MegaLab Director Andy Polnicki, left, and Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffer, right, clean and package face shield kits for Covenant Health. Each kit contains one 3D-printed headband, two overhead transparencies, two elastics and a set of assembly instructions.

Pellissippi State Community College has produced its first 200 transparent plastic face shields for Covenant Health, building on an earlier project that provided personal protective equipment to health care facilities throughout Tennessee. 

Once we finished our responsibility to the statewide effort spearheaded by Gov. Bill Lee, I suggested we reach out to our friends in health care to see if they also had a need for personal protective equipment,” explained Teri Brahams, executive director for economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. “It was great to offer assistance at the state level, but as a community college, it is great to be able to impact our local community as well.” 

Covenant Health responded to Pellissippi State’s offer, requesting 2,000 face shields that health care professionals can wear over their masks to help protect them from infectious diseases such as Covid-19. 

Moving from 3D-printing only the headbands for the face shields to producing the entire face shields took collaboration between Covenant Health’s Emily Sinkule and Pellissippi State’s Andy Polnicki, director of the MegaLab on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus. The two worked together to find a prototype Pellissippi State could produce with the supplies the college already had on hand or could find quickly, as “a lot of these items are difficult to get (due to the pandemic),” Polnicki explained. 

Pellissippi State got creative, repurposing transparencies for overhead projectors as plastic for the face shields. 

“We found about 500 usable transparencies,” Polnicki said. “We ordered more as well.” 

Pellissippi State also needed to produce face shields that Covenant Health couleasily store and pull out of inventory as neededPolnicki added. That meant coming up with kits that could be stacked on shelves and assembled by health care professionals on site. 

A Pellissippi State employee hands off a box of face shield kits to an Covenant Health employee
Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffer, left, delivers face shields to Covenant Health employee Cody Leach, right. Pellissippi State produced its first 200 transparent plastic face shields for Covenant Health, building on an earlier project that provided personal protective equipment to health care facilities throughout Tennessee.

Polnicki and Pellissippi State student Matt Nidiffera former Knox County Schools educator who is now studying Electrical Engineering Technology, worked together in the MegaLab, printing about 50 headbands each day. Staff from Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services chipped in by helping clean the headbands before packaging them with the other raw materials. 

Pellissippi State finished printing and packaging the first 200 face shield kits for Covenant Health last week. Each kit includes one 3D-printed headband, two overhead transparencies, two elastics and a set of instructions for how to assemble the components into a face shield. 

Even masked and gloved, the shields can be assembled and donned by health care professionals in less than a minute, Polnicki demonstrated, wearing a mask and gloves himself. Two plastic shields and two elastics were included in each kit so that those opening the kits have a backup should one of components become contaminated, he noted. 

Pellissippi State now will turn its attention to creating similar packets for the college’s Nursing students to use in labs this summer and fall, but then will resume fulfilling Covenant Health’s order of 2,000 face shields, as health care facilities prepare for whatever the coronavirus pandemic may bring this fall. 

“This is still a large project, but we are not under the same deadlines (as when the pandemic started),” Polnicki explained. “We have our 3D printers running at half capacity, which allows us to make about 250 headbands for face shields each week, but we could ramp up to full capacity if we need to. 

A representative from Covenant Health picked up the first 200 masks Thursday, May 21. 

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

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Pellissippi State announces phased plan for returning to campus

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley Campus
Pellissippi State will allow a small number of employees and students to return to the college’s Hardin Valley (shown here) and Strawberry Plains campuses starting Monday, May 4.

Pellissippi State Community College announced Friday a multi-stage plan for a slow, limited return to campus following the coronavirus pandemic that closed the college to all but essential personnel this spring. 

While one of Pellissippi State’s campuses is located in Blount County, Pellissippi State has adopted the guidance for Knox County as released by the Knox County Health Department for all five Pellissippi State campuses. The college’s plan also incorporates additional guidance from the Tennessee Board of Regents, the American College Health Association and the Centers for Disease Control. 

“Our first priority is the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. As we return to campus, we will do so in a manner that follows the best guidance of local, state and federal authorities. Within that frame, we will work to create the kind of engaged academic and student experience members of our community have come to expect.  

Pellissippi State’s first stage starts Monday, May 4, but only allows limited access to two campuses: Hardin Valley and Strawberry Plains. 

Those campuses will be open to those classes necessary for students to finish coursework that must be done on campus – skills assessment and project completion – during finals week. These labs in career programs such as Welding TechnologyEngineering and Nursing will not be operating at full capacity, in keeping with social distancing guidelines of leaving at least 6 feet of space between individuals and 10 or fewer people in one room. For that reason, an entire class may not be able to work or test at the same time. 

Outside of Strawberry Plains Campus
Strawberry Plains Campus is one of two Pellissippi State campuses that will reopen Monday, May 4, to students who need finish coursework that must be done on campus – skills assessment and project completion – during finals week.

Stage 1 also allows employees who have been working remotely to access their officesby appointment only, to retrieve items they need. 

While on campus, everyone must wear a mask at all times and follow social distancing guidelines. Anyone who has been exhibiting any of the symptoms of Covid-19 as outlined by the CDC should not report to campus. All employees are asked to take their temperatures before reporting to campus, and students who report for labs will be asked three screening questions provided by the Knox County Health Department before they are allowed to enter campus buildings: 

  1. Have you been told to quarantine/isolate by a medical provider or the health department? 
  2. Have you had face-to-face contact for 10 or more minutes with someone who has Covid-19? 
  3. Are you feeling ill and/or experiencing any of the symptoms of Covid-19? 

Stage 2 is scheduled to start May 29 and opens Blount County and Magnolia Avenue campuses to essential employees. The college’s Division Street Campus will remain closed throughout summer, as in previous summers. 

Future stages will be announced at a later date. 

Pellissippi State previously announced that all summer courses will move online, with limited in-person instruction in the second summer term for lab sections.  

For more information about Pellissippi State’s coronavirus response, including an archive of the college’s daily updates to faculty, staff and students, visit www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus. 

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Partnerships help Pellissippi State produce personal protective equipment on 3D printers

Man in orange shirt carrying box
Jesse Smith of ORNL delivers filament to Pellissippi State Community College. ORNL is one of the partners who donated filament to Pellissippi State’s MegaLab for 3D printing personal protective equipment.

Pellissippi State Community College recently 3D-printed 1,700 headbands for face shields health care professionals wear to protect them from infectious diseases such as Covid-19. But Pellissippi State didn’t do it alone. 

Knox County Schools’ Career Magnet Academy, Roane State Community College and Oak Ridge National Laboratory donated rolls of filament for Pellissippi State’s 3D printers. Filaments are thermoplastics that melt rather than burn when heated. Filament is fed into a 3D printer, where it is shaped and molded into a 3D object that solidifies when cooled. 

CMA, a public high school located in the same building as Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus, donated 13 kilograms (about 13 rolls) of filament, which was used to make 400 headbands; Roane State donated kilograms (about 8 rolls) of filament, which was used to make 225 headbands; and ORNL donated about 18 kilograms (about 18 rolls) of filamentwhich was used to make 500 headbands. 

These donations helped Pellissippi State continue making headbands for a project announced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on March 23. The headbands were 3D-printed in the Pellissippi State’s MegaLab on its Strawberry Plains Campus before being inspected, boxed and shipped to Austin Peay State University, the college that developed the prototype.  

There the headbands were attached to transparent face shields for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to distribute to health care facilities and professionals who were facing shortages of personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cranking out 1,700 headbands was a massive effort to undertake with only MegaLab Director Andy PolnickiTim Wilson and Todd Evans of Business and Community Services, and members of the Pellissippi State Campus Police, all of whom are essential workers allowed to report to campus during the governor’s Safer at Home Order. 

Rolls of filament
ORNL donated 18 kilograms of filament to Pellissippi State Community College to help its MegaLab continue 3D printing headbands for transparent plastic face shields.

We built the printer space in the MegaLab less than six months ago,” Polnicki said. It was intended to support summer camps in 3D printing, to provide a Maker Space for CMA and Pellissippi State students and to offer an Additive Manufacturing class for our Engineering students. I would have never expected the space to become a production area run by our police force and myself. 

Each of the MegaLab’s 3D printers produced more than 140 headbands – likely more printing time than most printers see in a lifetime of use,” Polnicki noted. More than 56 rolls of filament were consumed by the project.  

We are thankful for our employees and for community partners like CMARoane State and ORNL that contributed to this monumental project,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “In times like these, we are reminded how much we can accomplish when we work together for the greater good.” 

Learn more about the headband project at http://tiny.cc/nycpmzFor more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. 

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Pellissippi State manufactures critical personal protective equipment amid coronavirus pandemic

3D printers at MegaLab
3D printers at Pellissippi State’s MegaLab on its Strawberry Plains Campus are working around the clock to manufacture personal protective equipment for health care professionals.

Pellissippi State Community College is one of several Tennessee colleges using 3D printers to manufacture personal protective equipment that will help health care professionals caring for coronavirus patients. 

The project, announced Monday, March 23, by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, has been underway since Saturday, March 21. By Monday afternoon, the colleges had cranked out more than 1,500 pieces of equipment including 838 headbands like the ones Pellissippi State is producing to attach to face shields. 

Health care professionals wear plastic face shields over their masks as further protection from infectious diseases while working with patients. 

Headbands made by 3D printers
Pellissippi State shipped 239 headbands, shown here, to Austin Peay State University on Tuesday, where they will be attached to transparent plastic face shields that health care professionals wear over their face masks.

“We are pleased to be a part of supporting efforts to combat this virus in our community and across the state,” said Teri Brahams, executive director for economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. “Our ability to assist in this project is evidence of our efforts to always be on the cutting edge of technology taught in our classrooms and through Business and Community Services. This also is a perfect utilization of campus resources that would otherwise lie dormant during this period.” 

While Pellissippi State has closed its five campuses in Knox and Blount counties amid Knox County’s Safer at Home Order issued Monday, essential personnel continue to report to the MegaLab at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus to keep the 3D printers working around the clock. The MegaLab, its entrance and its nearby restrooms are on a daily cleaning schedule to ensure the space remains disinfected while essential personnel are working there. 

Andy Polnicki and Todd Evans wearing headbands
MegaLab Director Andy Polnicki, left, and Workforce Solutions Director Todd Evans, right, test the headbands being manufactured on 3D printers on the Strawberry Plains Campus. These headbands will be attached to plastic face shields to protect health care workers tending to patients with infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Pellissippi State MegaLab Director Andy Polnicki has been hard at work preparing the first shipment of 239 headbands to send to Austin Peay State University, the college that developed the prototype. Austin Peay employees will attach the headbands to transparent plastic face shields for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, which will distribute them to health care facilities and professionals who are facing shortages of equipment. 

This is one of the projects the governor is spearheading to find new and innovative ways to serve Tennesseans during the COVID-19 crisis. To keep up with the latest news about coronavirus response at Pellissippi State, visit our website at www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus. 

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Pellissippi State Foundation raises more than $14 million for new buildings, student support

Student speaker Destin Hickman stands with L. Anthony Wise Jr. and second student speaker Jon Collins
Students Benjamin Bridges (left) and Angela Dixon (right) pose with L. Anthony Wise Jr. after the Campaign for Pellissippi State Celebration at the Hardin Valley Campus on March 6.

The Pellissippi State Foundation has wrapped up its campaign to raise money for Pellissippi State Community College’s two new buildings and other initiatives, exceeding its $10 million goal by more than $4 million.

The Campaign for Pellissippi State, a four-year project spearheaded by 60 volunteers, will support the college’s largest expansion in its 45-year history. Some $8.8 million of the funds raised are earmarked to help build the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus in Knox County, the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the college’s Blount County Campus and other capital projects.

Meanwhile, $1.6 million was raised for student support, including 10 new scholarships and 13 new endowments, and $3.7 million in grants were secured to support the college’s academic efforts and workforce development initiatives.

“We could not have met our lofty $10 million goal, let alone exceeded it, without the help of our volunteers and our donors,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., noting that 571 of the Campaign’s 1,547 donors were new donors to Pellissippi State. “This support is going to help not only our current Pellissippi State students, but generations of students to come.”

The practical impacts of the Campaign are far-reaching, from eliminating waiting lists for required science labs to expanding several academic and career programs including Audio Production Engineering at the Magnolia Avenue Campus, Culinary Arts at the Blount County Campus, Early Childhood and Teacher Education at the Hardin Valley Campus and Welding at the Strawberry Plains Campus.

Student speaker Destin Hickman poses with L. Anthony Wise Jr. and second student speaker Jon Collins
Students Destin Hickman (left) and Jon Collins (right) pose with L. Anthony Wise Jr. after the Campaign for Pellissippi State Celebration at the Blount County Campus on March 6.

Meanwhile, the college’s Student Opportunity Fund was bolstered to provide a financial safety net for students at risk of dropping out due to an emergency situation, and the Hardin Valley Garden and Pellissippi Pantry will grow to address the increasing number of local students experiencing food insecurity.

“Pellissippi State is charged with a most important mission – preparing the next generation workforce for our community,” said Campaign Chair Tom Ballard. “The funds that we raised will provide modern facilities and enhanced programs to ensure that current and future students have a solid foundation for success.”

Pellissippi State Foundation extends a special thanks to Campaign Leaders who donated $500,000 or more: Arconic Foundation; the Economic Development Board of Blount County, City of Alcoa and City of Maryville; Pilot Company; and Ruth and Steve West.

Pellissippi State employees and retirees also gave more than $500,000 combined to the Campaign, the Foundation noted.

A campaign impact video is available HERE. To learn more about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.

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Pellissippi State microbiology students create intricate art using bacteria

Art in Petri dishes
Pellissippi State microbiology students created these and other designs using bacteria in the Strawberry Plains Campus lab.

Microbiology students on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains and Magnolia Avenue campuses have used the techniques they’ve learned in lab this semester to create agar art, also known as microbial art.

You can see this agar art displayed on the Strawberry Plains Campus, in a hall on the main level of the building.

Agar art is an active learning tool that presents the microbial community in an interesting way, explained microbiology instructor Zainab Ahmed, who is a microbiologist and virologist.

Students created artwork using agar – a gel-like substance used to grow bacteria in Petri dishes – as a canvas and bacteria as the paint. The kind of agar and bacteria used determines the color of the artwork students produced.

“The pigments are colorful evidence of bacteria’s morphology in their real habitat,” Ahmed noted. “This illustrates the beauty of these microorganisms in nature.”

The agar art was created solely on the Strawberry Plains Campus this semester, offered as extra credit in lab time outside of class. Microbiology students on any of Pellissippi State’s campuses were welcome to participate.

“Students all like it,” Ahmed said. “Some have asked to come back and participate again the next semester we offer it, and I have met with a high school biology teacher in Blount County who would like for us to promote Agar art for high school students in the future.”

This was the third time Ahmed has offered her microbiology students the opportunity to create agar art, but it’s the first time Strawberry Plains Campus Dean Mike North has invited Ahmed to display the students’ artwork on campus.

“I thought it was the coolest thing that was done with the outcome of the Agar art,” North said. “I love filling up the campus with art, and when it’s contributions from students, that’s even better. I want to support them. It’s educational, and it looks really really cool.”

Photos of the Petri dishes show everything from Christmas trees to a lizard to a map of North and South America – all formed by bacteria grown in the Strawberry Plains Campus microbiology lab.

“Students had the option of what they wanted to draw – they could use a stencil or choose something from the internet and draw it freehand,” Ahmed explained. “We have heard from other instructors and students that they like this agar art.”

Ahmed and microbiology technician Katherine Fullerton prepared the agar and cultured the bacteria, but students took it from there.

The bacteria students could choose to use produced pigments of red, blue, orange and green. While red, blue and orange pigments occur naturally in bacteria, some bacteria that appear white or tan on other agar present as green when grown on a different kind of agar.

Students also could choose how to transfer the bacteria to their Petri dishes – using a wire loop that had to be fired in a Bunsen burner, a toothpick or a fine paintbrush.

“This is a good opportunity for our microbiology students to use all the different tools in the lab and to feel free to experiment,” Ahmed said. “They get to use all the knowledge they’ve learned earlier in the semester, from lab safety to how to incubate the bacteria, and they get to see chemical reactions and how colonies of bacteria can change color.”

Ahmed’s agar art project was supported this semester by a grant from Pellissippi State’s Instructional Development Committee, which allowed Ahmed to purchase more agar and new bacteria. The grant will cover another semester of agar art, but Ahmed said she may wait until fall 2020 to offer the opportunity again, as it would give microbiology students a chance to enter their agar art into an international competition sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.

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