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BAE Profiles Two CBE Undergrads

Taylor Alderson and Jake Jensen.

Taylor Alderson, left, and Jake Jensen

Reprinted with permission from BAE Systems.

CBE undergrads Taylor Alderson and Jake Jensen are completing co-ops at BAE Systems’ Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Kingsport, Tennessee. BAE Systems profiled both students on its website.


Taylor Alderson

As a native of Kingsport, Tenn., Taylor Alderson grew up with the Holston Army Ammunition Plant. She’s only heard positive things from family friends and college peers about working at Holston and the plant’s impact on the surrounding community in Kingsport. So Taylor jumped at the opportunity to return home for her co-op experience, which offered her the chance to be around family and gain valuable engineering experience. We sat down with Taylor to learn more about what makes her co-op experience at Holston so special.

Q. Can you share more about your role, and your day-to-day responsibilities?

A. Depending on the day, I’ll go out in the plant and watch what’s going on, or someone will tour me around, so I understand the processes and what’s going on in different areas. Sometimes I’ll go in the control room and watch the processes on screens. The operators are all great. They are always available to answer my questions.

Even as an intern, I know I’m making a contribution at Holston, and I appreciate that responsibility. I’m grateful they keep me so involved. I’m often invited to different walk downs or meetings, even if I’m not technically involved in the project, giving me the opportunity to continue to learn all aspects of the plant.

Q. What gets you excited to go into work every day?

A. The people at Holston are great, and genuinely care about my education. I’m enjoying learning different processes and about the projects I’m working on. I love being able to see the connections between what I’ve learned in school to what I am doing on-site here at Holston.

It’s a great co-op, and I’m grateful I took it. I love my experience so far. Everyone is super nice; my mentor and manager are both great and supportive and have given me a lot of projects and room to learn. I like to conduct a lot of research and have plenty of time and opportunity to dive into research while completing my tasks for projects I’m working on.

Q. When you think about the future, what are your short- and long-term goals?

A. I really like leadership positions. At school, I’m on a lot of different committees. I love being able to mentor and lead, and I would like to focus on that in the future.
At Holston, I also like how each engineer in my group has a specialty. My goal is to become a specialist in an area, but also learn other areas too.

Q. What’s something fun you like to do in your spare time?

A. I love crafts. Right now, I’m passionate about knitting and making jewelry. I also have three cats at home. I made my office all cat-themed at work. I have cats everywhere and have outlined my desk and shelves in cat washi tape.

Q. Can you describe your co-op experience in one word?

A. Exciting.


Jake Jensen

Jake Jenson often finds himself in awe of the sheer scale of the Holston Army Ammunition Plant. As a chemical engineering major and intern at Holston, Jake prizes the invaluable real-world experience of internships, something he was seeking when applying for college. Whether he’s completing his projects onsite or receiving guidance from mentors, Jake takes in as much as he can learn every day. Read more about Jake, his co-op experience and discovering the beauty of East Tennessee.

Q. Can you share more about your role and day-to-day responsibilities?

A. Right now, my main project is setting up meters for water, air and electricity across the site measuring how much each building is using and coordinating with contractors to install the meters. I’ve only worked on one or two projects so far and I’ve been amazed at the scale of everything here and just how large everything is.

With engineering, it’s difficult to get into the industry without quality work experience. I applied to a bunch of universities, and University of Tennessee really put an emphasis on the importance of co-ops and giving students the opportunity to gain real world experience. The co-op experience is immeasurable – you can’t put a price tag on work experience.

Q. What gets you excited to go into work every day?

A. I love that I get to see the impact of what I’m doing. I had a huge list of things to do, and I’ve gotten chunks out of the way, we have contractors lined up, and we are getting closer to being sure we can complete our current project on time. I’m grateful for my mentors and the guidance and education they provide.

No day is the same at Holston, there is always something different that I get to learn. For one, I get to see things on the job and it’s not things I have access to in school. I’ve learned a lot about different pipe systems, and how you monitor different things you use down the line. Once I go back to school, I feel confident knowing I’ve gained useful knowledge. I also already have insight into things I haven’t been exposed to yet and I’m getting a head start. No amount of textbook experience can compare to a year in the field.

Q. When you think about the future, what are your short- and long-term goals?

A. I want to learn as much as I can while I’m here, finish my degree and go into a similar industry. I definitely want to learn about the industry and how chemical engineering fits into different aspects, and this co-op was ideal.

Q. What do you like to do in your spare time?

A. I enjoy camping in East Tennessee. I love Kingsport and exploring the area. I’ve heard they have a hard time getting people coming to Kingsport, but once they get here, it’s hard to leave. I can see that being the case for me!

Q. Describe your internship in one word.

A. Invaluable.

Skyler Turner

Skyler Turner working in the field for Clean Air Engineering.

Mechanical engineering student Skyler Turner wrote below about his experience working for Clean Air Engineering in Powell, Tennessee. He worked in the Calibration Lab and Field Testing. He calibrated equipment to precise standards to use in the field for proper measurements and data collection.

“The biggest learning curve was understanding the software for the calibrations and learning how to use the equipment to your advantage. Repetition and procedure guides helped me overcome this challenge and I was able to successfully deploy the equipment in the field.

I gained an abundant amount of information that I never would have expected to learn if it weren’t for the great engineers and leaders at Clean Air. I can now use this experience to help further my opportunities with the company after schooling or on to others.”

Office of Engineering Professional Practice Stays Successful with Online Offerings

Student and Employer at the Spring Engineering Expo

Like many aspects of campus life, several of the offerings from the Office of Engineering Professional Practice had to be done in a remote fashion in the spring of 2021.

While that could have easily been a reason to pare back some of the annual events, the office instead was able to convert to virtual formats and maintain the same level of support that students in the Tickle College of Engineering have come to expect.

The first event of the year, Prep for Success, helped students gain insights into how to promote themselves and learn interviewing skills.

Held February 2nd, it culminated with an employer panel attended by Brasfield & Gorrie, Draxlmaier, Electrolux, and MAHLE, which helped get students prepared for the Spring Engineering Expo by helping them learn how they could successfully navigate a virtual expo and interview day.

The Expo itself was held February 23, followed by Interview Day on the 25th, with 74 companies and nearly 500 students attending via the office’s ProConnect software system. It was the second consecutive virtual Expo, and resulted in 992 students landing interviews with 47 companies.

Joshua Dobbs speaks at the Engineering Professional Practice Awards Ceremony

The major events for the spring semester concluded with the annual spring celebration, featuring a keynote address from former UT and current Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs, a 2017 aerospace engineering alumnus of the college. Held via zoom on March 30, Dobbs’s talk focused on three main points that he conveyed to students:

  • Be present in the present;
  • Be a continual student;
  • Establish your purpose.

Associate Dean for Research and Facilities Bill Dunne was presented the Program Champion award for sustained support of the Professional Practice program.

Graduating seniors Rebecca Bozman and Kathryn Clayton received the Jerry Stoneking Co-op Engineering Award and the Henry Goodrich Service Award, respectively.

Eight students graduating this May who had received the John Prados Chemical Engineering Co-op Scholarship were also recognized: Rebecca Bozman, Ryan Dent, Tyler Johnson, Ryan Keever, Logan Potter, Nathan Tidwell, and Jose Velasco. The Prados scholarship is provided annually by alumnus Mike Stone in honor of Prados and is awarded to chemical engineering students who have participated in the co-op program and are also pursuing business courses.

The semester is concluding with hundreds of engineering students preparing to go on their co-op and internship assignments in the summer and fall.

Neisha French

Neisha French.

Civil and environmental engineering student Neisha French wrote about her experience working for Brasfield & Gorrie in Nashville as part of a co-op.

I worked with a Project Management group in Brasfield & Gorrie’s Corporate Services division. The group’s overall responsibilities were to plan the construction and oversee sub-contractors financially and physically throughout the duration of the construction process.

My responsibilities were to make “exhibits” that illustrated floor finishes and shoring heights for the crews to use during construction, send and document submittals and RFIs, and track and order formwork for each floor of the building.

This industry experience helped me see what positions I could potentially have working for a general contractor. It also gave me insight on the construction process, so if I should ever engineer the structure of a building, I can consider ways to add constructability, which is a time and cost savings for whoever builds it.

Matthew Stuckey

Matthew Stuckey works at elliTek.

Mechanical engineering major Matthew Stuckey wrote about his experience working for elliTek in Knoxville as part of a co-op.

My name is Matthew Stuckey, and I had to opportunity to work with elliTek, Inc, a local system integrator here in Knoxville. As the mechanical engineering intern, I got to jump feet first into engineering new solutions daily. These projects included expanding my electrical engineering knowledge and seeing how those concepts directly relate back to my mechanical classes. I now understand how vital it is for a mechanical engineer to have the foresight to design for electrical and electromechanical integration down the line. ElliTek gave me a close-knit environment to grow as a designer, and I am immensely grateful to say I will be continuing part-time with them!

Nuclear Co-Op Gives Students Enlightening Experience

Jasmine Toy and Elijah Brock.

Jasmine Toy and Elijah Brock

Southern Company is one of UT’s premier cooperative education participants, and even though Knoxville is outside their power distribution region, the university regularly places as many engineering students into co-op roles in their organization as other colleges of engineering in their region due to the excellent students produced by the Tickle College of Engineering (TCE) and Department of Nuclear Engineering.

Two rising seniors, Elijah Brock and Jasmine Toy, both experienced the same co-op rotation with Southern Company at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Farley to advance their knowledge of what it would be like working in the nuclear industry. Both walked away with very different discoveries about potential career paths, including getting a rare look at what kinds of work is necessary during an power outage when one occurred while both were there in the fall of 2020.

Brock chose to work in the mechanical systems group—as opposed to the corporate office in Birmingham—because he wanted to learn about how a plant operates up close. He asked for experience, and that’s exactly what he got with walkdowns of several major systems at the plant including condensate and feedwater, service water, river water, and auxiliary feedwater.

“I have encountered many diagrams of reactors and plant systems in my coursework, but actually getting to do walkdowns of these systems in person was a priceless experience,” he said. “A system walkdown basically entails walking through an entire system within the plant to check for any developing problems or issues that may need to be addressed. These included anything from recording readings of various meters on plant equipment to checking for any visible oil leaks. System engineers are required to do walkdowns on a regular basis.”

Meanwhile, Toy worked in design and was able to focus her co-op rotation on gaining skills pertinent to plant safety. Some of the activities she was involved with included putting very high-definition cameras in a spent fuel pool to help with identifying if there’s any damage to the assembly when they are unloading the reactor.

In the end, Brock felt the experience gave him a sense that, while he is still exploring his options, he is open to pursuing an opportunity to work in a nuclear plant someday.

I feel fortunate that I was able to shadow reactor engineers during some of the refueling activities,” said Brock. “I learned a lot by being able to participate in equipment inspections.”

—Elijah Brock

The same co-op experience gave Toy motivation to rule out working in a plant and to keep exploring other options. Even though Toy said the experience made her realize she doesn’t want to work at a nuclear plant, she still thinks the co-op was valuable for what it was able to teach her about the day-to-day operations and what the atmosphere of a nuclear plant is like.

“We have so many options as nuclear engineers, and I am glad I got to rule something out to better help me find a good fit,” she said.

Todd Reeves, director of the TCE Office of Engineering Professional Practice, said that in addition to the valuable engineering experiences students gain when working in their co-op rotations and the money earned to help offset the college expenses, a co-op can also provide valuable insight into the various kinds of engineering work and then shape students’ early professional plans.

“Students with co-op experience can make post-graduation placement decisions based on firsthand knowledge, and this can accelerate their early career arc by getting them in a position that aligns well with their skills and goals right at the start,” he said.

Olivia Lazar

Olivia Lazar works at DENSO Manufacturing.

Chemical engineering major Olivia Lazar wrote about her experience working for DENSO Manufacturing as part of a co-op.

I worked on a co-op at DENSO Manufacturing as a Final Assembly Production Engineer, and I loved it. I worked on a big project concerning finding a new chemical to clean our daily pallet/jig usage. The original scope of this project was just research, but I got so involved that I ended up helping lead the cross-functional team in a short term plan of finding a new chemical and a long term plan of acquiring new, more effective, and safe equipment. I was also heavily involved in three or four different manufacturing lines and was responsible for other small projects and troubleshooting.

I learned so much and I am very grateful for this experience.

Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell in the workplace at the Flint Group.

Mary Mitchell is a chemical engineering undergrad who wrote about her experience working for the Flint Group as part of a co-op.

I worked in the technology department, which is part of Flint Group’s research and development department.

My position afforded me the opportunity to learn and advance my critical thinking skills in various projects in a lab setting while analyzing and interpreting data which would be used to develop new products. Additionally, I provided troubleshooting and scaled up newly developed products to production scale while providing research and testing new ideas to assist the company in becoming more sustainable while simultaneously cutting costs.

The most valuable benefit was definitely the more practical view I gained of engineering as well as what to expect in the workplace and how to conduct myself as an engineer.

Savannah Jobkar stands in front of a dump truck.

Student “Co-op”eration Yields Success

Walking into the City of Maryville to begin the first rotation of her co-op, junior Savannah Jobkar was terrified. While she was excited to learn about the field of civil engineering, she was also extremely scared of failure and not being able to reach the level of expectations held for her.

Her fears quickly eased when she realized how inviting, caring, and helpful her supervisors and staff were. Jobkar said her supervisors taught her everything she needed to know on the job and were encouraging, making her co-op a positive experience.

She worked closely with engineers in the stormwater department, performing job activities that were completely new to her, such as reviewing site plans, working on stormwater infrastructure projects, visiting, inspecting, and surveying sites, preparing budgets, responding to citizens’ drainage and traffic complaints, and even collecting and reviewing stream samples.

“Seeing how engineers operate in the field will not only help me with gaining experience for a future career, but will also allow me to apply what I learned to my remaining classes,” she said.

This co-op has taught me to break out of my comfort zone and has helped me build confidence within myself that I never had prior.”

—Savannah Jobkar

UT has had a co-op relationship with the City of Maryville for about 15 years.

“Our strategy is to try and make use of two co-op students per semester, one focusing on transportation projects, and the other focused more on stormwater or drainage projects,” said Kevin Stoltenberg, an engineer with the city. “We have had students rotate back and forth between disciplines to get a better feel for what they enjoy working on.”

He also said the students that have come through the program have been from diverse backgrounds and have been hard working and eager to learn and take on challenges.

Students who co-op for Maryville have worked on projects related to traffic studies, estimating costs for construction projects, reviewing development plans, surveying and data collection, drainage improvements, and watershed mapping, among others. Stoltenberg said that this broad range of functions make it a more interesting environment in which to work.

Tickle College of Engineering Director of the Office of Engineering Professional Practice Todd Reeves also talked about how the relationship with the City of Maryville has been very beneficial to college students over the years.

“In the student’s co-op rotations there, they are asked to do very hands-on, meaningful engineering projects that give them a great feel for what engineers do and what type of roles these students might like to pursue in their future,” he said. “These projects enhance their education and, of course, they are getting paid too, so this helps them with the educational expenses as well.”

Over the years, the Maryville has hired three graduates of the co-op program as full time staff, and students often go on to very successful careers with consulting firms and other governmental agencies including TVA, the City of Knoxville, and TDOT.

Sharon Smith, a senior co-op student, worked directly under Stoltenberg, whose mentorship she valued.

“He doesn’t just give me valuable tasks, but he also mentors me through the process of completing them,” she said. “I get opportunities to work independently and on a team, but the work here all contributes to the same goal: serving the growing community.”

Savannah Jobkar and Sharon Smith pose together.

Savannah Jobkar (left) and Sharon Smith

Smith has gotten to participate in the site plan review process in which multiple departments review a plan set submitted by a design engineer. Additionally, she’s conducted traffic counts and analyzed volume data, and she’s documented progress made during construction projects.

“This opportunity has allowed me to finally see and experience the purpose of what I’ve been learning in school,” she said. “Because of the mentorship and inclusion I’ve received, I’ve gained some much needed confidence as an engineering student and junior engineer. I’m beginning to see how pieces of the complex subject of engineering fit together, and I couldn’t have done that on my own or without opportunities to practice.”

Just another example of how co-ops present win-win-win partnerships by benefitting the student, the college, and the client.

Miller McSwain

Miller McSwain and the group he worked with poses with former astronaut Rex Walheim in a space suit.

Miller McSwain, front left, and others pose with former astronaut Rex Walheim at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.

Miller McSwain worked at NASA’s Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate at the Johnson Space Center as part of a spring 2020 co-op.

My group primarily determined failure probabilities for components on the International Space Station, Orion (NASA’s newest crew capsule), and Commercial Crew vehicles (SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner). These failure probabilities help ensure the safety of the astronauts that fly on these vehicles.

Determining mission risks is best done by using large sets of reliable data. Specifically, I was tasked with gathering and organizing these various sets of risk data, and improving the speed and efficiency in which analysts use the data to interpret failure probabilities.

Miller McSwain takes a selfie in front of astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli.

Miller McSwain with astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli

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