Category Archives: News

August 2016 Technical Society News

On August 8, 2016 Barry Thacker gave an excellent presentation on the history of Coal Creek. He came dressed as a person from the past and told the story from that person’s perspective. The presentation was well done.

Inexpensive natural gas and stringent government regulations are killing the traditional economy of coal-mining communities in Tennessee. What hope of survival do residents of these communities have? We all need to be thinking of a future when there will be no fossil fuels extracted from the ground, there will be no subsistence farmers and manufacturing will be done by sophisticated robots.

As the founder of the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit watershed-restoration group. Mr. Thacker has emphasized education. To give us an idea of the importance of education he brought a former student, Kyle Leinart, who is co-founder and systems/software developer at ImmersaCAD in Knoxville, TN. Kyle was the recipient of the 2011 Nantglo Scholarship from the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation and he has used his education well and is now co-patent holder on a portable virtual reality device with One-Touch Navigation™, which enables architectural and engineering CAD drawings to be viewed in virtual reality. This is not even close to describing the device! Mr. Leinart demonstrated the device and I, secretary Bob Scott, could understand Samuel Morse’s message “ What hath God wrought?” Go to to learn more.
We sometimes fail to realize the quality of speakers we have at the Technical Society meetings. I said in the meeting announcements that Barry Thacker was a recipient of the prestigious Hoover Medal bestowed by an international consortium of engineering societies. What I didn’t say was that among other recipients have been Edgar Kaiser, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and Steve Wozniak.

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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in News


November 2015 Technical Society News

November 2015 Technical Society News

The speaker for the Technical Society of Knoxville meeting on  November 9, 2015 was Walter Wunderlich PE. His topic was “Civil Disengagement in America.” 

The rise and fall of civic orgnizations was shown in some detail. Many volunteer organizations- if not all of them – have declined in membershio and participation in recent years.

On November 16, 2015  Wolf Naegeli, PhD, Senior Research Scientist Emeritus, Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, The University of Tennessee gave a Multi-media presentation entitled ” Electric Vehicle Technology: Past and Present”

One hundred years ago, electric cars had a far greater market penetration than today. Dr. Naegeli discussed the checkered past and the present state of electric propulsion technologies in transportation. The history of electric cars and the pictures of early products were interesting.

Wolf drives a made-in-Tennessee Nissan Leaf electric car.

On  November 30, 2015 Dr. Joshua Sangoro spoke on “New electrolytes for safer batteries – Ionic liquids in electrochemical energy applications”

He is seeking the next big step forward in the quest for sustainable, more efficient energy. The electrochemical cell has 3 parts: the electrodes, the separator and the electrolyte. The electrolyte is a crucial part in the search for better energy storage and Dr. Sangoro is a leading researcher.

Technical Society officer nominees for 2016 are

president Ev Engstrom

vice president Wolf Naegeli

treasurer Jean Pierre Granju


Walter Wunderlich

Luther Alcorn

Peter Scheffler

Wayne Loveday

Steve Levy

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Posted by on December 1, 2015 in News


October 2015 Technical Society News

On October 5, 2015. Guru Venkatesan described “The U.T. Tech Carnivol.” He saw program in India for young people and he is starting a similar program at UT. Students with a penchant for tinkering have an opportunity to shine thanks toTech Carnivol, a new event to be held during Engineer’s Day on October 22.
Tech Carnivol is an engineering festival designed and organized by UT students to help spotlight STEM education and its impact beyond engineering. It will feature competitions in robotics, business, coding, and computer security, and is open to all UT students as well as area high school students. The event will be “a Bonnaroo for science and engineering, with all sorts of fascinating and engaging events happening around you.”
Guru Venkatesan is a graduate research assistant in biomedical engineering and Tech Carnivol president.
Andy Sarles, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and faculty advisor to Tech Carnivol said the goal is to bring together and engage students from various schools and colleges in a fun-filled series of science- and engineering-related competitions. The festival will serve as a platform to the young and talented brains to showcase their skills while also serving to inspire and motivate high school students to hone in on their own education interests.

The Technical Society board of directors met after the presentation. During the last three years the Technical Society has experienced low attendance at meetings and difficulty in finding people to arrange for programs. The board consensus is that we should explore moving to monthly meetings in 2016. We will consider having meetings on the second Monday of each month.

On October 19 Kasey Krouse, who is the Knoxville urban forester, described “The Knoxville Urban Forestry Program”.

The city of Knoxville is making a serious effort to implement an urban forrest. The urban trees include trees on the right of way of roads as well as the obvious public trees.The benefits for a tree canopy in a city are quite surprising and include reduced crime. He has a seven person crew and they plant 500 to 600 trees each year.

On October 26  Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Wayne Davis, gave an update on the UT engineering college. The number of both undergraduate and graduate students have increased to a total of 4000.

The college has a fourth of the University graduate students.

UT is a leader in solar power. They have a solar charging station on the 11th street garage and they have two Leafs.

The Dean introduced two Technical Society Ferris Scholarship recipients, student Stephanie Steren-Rutta and faculty member Chris Cherry.

Stephanie is a remarkable engineering student. She was inspired by a robot competition as a young girl in Argentina (she was born in the United States) and she is involved in the Little Systers program and she is involved in helping younger students and Spanish speaking students.

Dr. Chris Cherry is a leading figure in sustainable transportation and he said he appreciated the support from the Technical Society Ferris scholarship.

Listening to these people made me, secretary Bob Scott, realize that Helen Mason’s starting the scholarship was a very good idea. The society presented a check to Dean Davis for $1500 to add to the principle of the scholarship fund.


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Posted by on November 5, 2015 in News


September 2015 Technical Society News

On September 14, 2015 Allen Coggins was the Technical Society of Knoxville speaker. The topic of his presentation was “Some Intriguing Sylvan Factoids – some little known facts about Tennessee woodlands.” Allen has indeed assembled an interesting collection of factoids. Tennessee is indeed an unusual place.

Allen is a naturalist who studied Biology and Natural History at Middle Tennessee State University. He worked as a natural hazards planner with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA)(he did not plan the disasters-just what to do if they occurred) and developed a history of state disasters for the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan. Since retiring he has become an author and has published several books- including his new book on intriguing sylvan factoids.

Allen served as president of the Technical Society of Knoxville in 2005.

On September 21, 2015,  Soren Sorensen gave his talk entitled“What Everything Is Made Of.”

 Dr. Soren Sorensen is a  Professor at University of Tennessee and  head of the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy. He talked about the search for the composition of matter that has continued for centuries and is now down to understanding quarks (that is quarks- not quirks). And maybe understanding string theory.

On September 28, 2015 Robert G. Farrell and Holly B. Oswald of TVA reported on the current status of TVA policy decisions regarding what to do about the more than 1,800 non-navigable structures on 16 TVA reservoirs. Unlike traditional watercraft, floating houses are primarily designed and used for habitation, creating unique safety, regulatory  and environmental issues that must be considered. The most likely option seems to be prohibiting new ones and grandfathering the existing ones with removal after some time period. Robert G. Farrell retired from the TVA Office of Environment and Research (OE&R) and he has been brought back to work on the floating houses.

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Posted by on October 5, 2015 in News


August 2015 Technical Society News

Jack Neely, Contributing Editor at the new  Knoxville Mercury was the Technical Society of Knoxville speaker on August 3, 2015. He served as associate editor at Metro Pulse for much of its existence, and as author of the weekly column Secret History he has become one of Knoxville’s most popular writers and its unofficial historian. Beyond his column, he is well known for his thoughtful, well-researched, and provocative pieces of long-form journalism, not to mention his books, speeches, and other public appearances. Plus, he’s the director of the Knoxville History Project.
His father, John Neely , an industrial engineer who worked in management at Rohm & Haas,  was a member of the Technical Society of Knoxville and his grandfather also was a member. Jack said he is the family “black sheep” since all the other male members of his family have been or are engineers.

Jack obviously enjoys the history of Knoxville and he informed us we were meeting on “hanging hill” and he gave us some stories about our surroundings. He talked about some Knoxville outstanding men including Weston Fulton- one of the founders of the Technical Society.

I , secretary Bob Scott, recommend everyone read his weekly articles in the Knoxville Mercury.

Our August 10 speaker had to cancel and instead one of our Technical Society members Steve Hillenbrand, spoke about one of Knoxville’s noted personalities- the late Cas Walker. Steve Hillenbrand has talked to the Technical Society in the past about insurance claims, sinkholes, air pollution and cutting jewels so he may be one of Knoxville’s more colorful characters also. And he arrived for the talk wearing a Cas Walker t shirt and ready to tell a number of Cas Walker stories.

On August 17, 2015, Harold A. Black, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville was speaker. His title was “The crisis of 2008, the Fed, and its consequences.” Among many other recognitions, he has served as a Director and Chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He is able to speak with authority on economic subjects. Listening to Dr. Black I, secretary Bob Scott, learned that the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (FED) has the power to induce a recession and to determine the response of the economy to the recession. In the recent recession the FED started buying “commercial paper” and “short term financial paper” to prevent a collapse.

The FED can set the interest rate charged between banks and can make it easy or difficult for banks to get money. The current rate is low to increase borrowing and spending.

The FED has killed the subprime housing which let minorities buy houses. None of the things said about subprime mortgages are true. The subprime mortgages- which comprise a small part of the mortgages and have a high default rate built into them- did not cause the last recession, instead it was the rest of the real estate market. The normal mortgages have a 4 to 5 percent default rate built in to them and the actual default rate of about 8 percent was disastrous. Derivatives spread the risk but the entire market collapsed.

The FED can set rules that strongly effect the economy. The FED has to look at the longer term economy- looking at current economic conditions results in poor policy.
Dr. Black writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News Sentinel and blogs at

The Technical Society did not meet on August 24 but toured Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus on August 27, 2015. The new building is nearing completion and it is a very impressive place. Our host was Cliff Hawks, President and CEO of the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus.

On August 31, 2015 Jennifer Tyrell was the speaker. Her topic was “The Tennessee Science Bowl.” The 2016 Tennessee Science Bowl needs volunteers for the event on Saturday, February 28, 2016.  Jennifer Tyrell is the new event coordinator and is open to working with and recognizing the existence and relevancy of organizations to the event. The 2016 Tennessee Science Bowl (TSB), a regional competition sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), will need volunteers to serve as moderators, scientific judges, rules judges, scorekeepers, timekeepers, runners, civility award judges, and to help with volunteer registration and crowd control on Saturday, February 28, 2016, at the Blount County Campus of Pellissippi State Community College in Friendsville. Jennifer described how volunteers are trained and used and all of us can help. Volunteers will also be needed to help with team registration and crowd control on February 27, 2016, at the Hilton Knoxville Airport in Alcoa. This is an opportunity for Technical Society members to help our community in a direct way.

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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in News


July 2015 Technical Society News

On July 13, 2015.  Tom Rice described  the TVA Energy Resources Plan.

Maintaining the diversity of TVA’s energy resource options is fundamental to the ability of providing low-cost, reliable power. In order to fill a forecasted capacity gap TVA considered the addition of a wide range of supply-side generating resources as well as energy efficiency and other demand-side resource options. TVA’s future portfolio of generating assets consists of various fuel sources and diverse technologies that support varying power demand and the other services required for reliable operation of the power system. TVA’s resource portfolio also includes power purchases through both short- and long-term contracts, as well as increasing the use of renewable resources and demand-side options. TVA plans to buy wind energy- which will be generated in the midwest (1500MW). The Racoon Mountain pumped storage is big (1600 MW). The major power generation still comes from coal (12,000MW) but no new coal fired plants are planned. Natural gas plants will be added (9000MW).  Solar is projected to be a small contributor (120MW). The TVA projections are all based on current technology. A carbon tax or a significant increase in rooftop solar could result in a significant change in the plan. More solar and more wind power will need more storage and rapid peaking power because of their inconsistencies.

July 20, 2015 Matt Wakefield of EPRI spoke on the topic “Smart Grid”.  Since its beginnings in 1972, EPRI membership has grown to represent approximately 90% of the electricity generated in the United States and extends to more than 30 countries internationally. They have 450 participants and 24 smart grid collaborators. He described an emphasis on lowering the voltage to consumers as a way to reduce electrical demand without lowering voltage to unacceptable levels. He described ways to influence consumer demand- all of which seem to run into customer inattention or indifference.

In November 1965 the Great Northeastern Blackout left 30 million people in the United States without electricity, starkly demonstrating the nation’s growing dependence on electricity and vulnerability to its loss. It marked a watershed for the industry and triggered the creation of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRIThe EPRI research portfolio addresses a range of issues that change with the times and the technology, even as the underlying expectations remain constant for electricity that is affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible. Matt Wakefield is Director of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) research at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). His responsibilities include furthering the development of a modernized grid with a strong focus on leveraging emerging information and communication technologies that can be applied to the electric grid infrastructure. He and his team are focused on Smart Grid Research that enables advanced applications. He wishes to apply emerging technologies innovatively with a focus on cost benefit .

Matt has a BS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland.

On JULY 25, 2015 Cliff Hawks was speaker.   Mr. Hawks is president and CEO of Cherokee Farm Development Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the UT Research Foundation that was formed to oversee recruitment and management of the university’s new Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus. Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus is a 188-acre site (77 acres are useful for development) on the banks of the Tennessee River and is modeled after other successful research parks around the country. It will provide laboratory and work space for collaborations between private industry and scientists and researchers affiliated with the University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Cherokee Farm is the Southeast’s only R&D park where the resources of a major research university and a leading national laboratory are combined. The close proximity of an airport and ORNL and UT is helpful. The present building if filled and additional buildings will be required for additional participants. The money for additional facilities will come from the participants. Companies insist on zoning and the proper zoning is in place for research and also some food , retail and hotel facilities as needed. All that is needed for world class benefits will be world class management patience and commitment.

Steve Hillenbrand, our air pollution board representative, reported that Knox County is currently in attainment and will probably continue in attainment unless the new EPA rules are lower than expected (or hoped for).

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Posted by on July 28, 2015 in News


June 2015 Technical Society News

 On June 1, 2015. Craig Fischer spoke on “Genomes and Medicine – Ancestral, Predictive, and Therapeutic” Genomics is an area within genetics that concerns the sequencing and analysis of an organism’s genome. The genome is the entire DNA content that is present within one cell of an organism. Experts in genomics strive to use genetic mapping to help understand disease.

Prior to 1953 genetics was almost at the Gregor Mendel stage of understanding. The change in technology is comparable to the change from an abacus to a computer. In 2003 the first human genome was published at a cost of billions of dollars. The technology and its implications are moving rapidly. Today the genome for a  person can be obtained for $100.  I, secretary Bob Scott, have had my genome mapped by 23andMe based on the information given by Mr. Fischer. (They say I am 2.8 % neanderthal- my wife thought it would be more). Currently genealogy information but not medical information is given by 23andMe. There are other companies that do genetic testing.

This is an area where technology, science, medicine and ethics will be impinging on public policies and it is an area where the Technical Society of Knoxville needs to be able to offer informed position papers.

On June 8, 2015 our speaker was Alexandra Brownfield, the Executive Director of Volunteer Knoxville. The Knoxville volunteer center- which is one of only four in Tennessee- was started by Ms Brownfield in 2014. The Technical Society is moving to increase its effectiveness in serving the technical community by providing opportunities for community service and this is an organization that is working toward a similar goal.

The Volunteer Center manages a community-wide volunteer website,, and mobilizes volunteers to meet local volunteer program needs. People interested in volunteering can go to the website

On June 15, 2015, Robert G. Campbell PE , who is currently completing a four year term as a member of the Tennessee State Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners (State Board), was the speaker. Mr. Campbell is a consulting engineer with Robert G. Campbell and Associates, a firm founded by his father. The State Board is concerned with engineering not being contracted on the basis of competency but instead being contracted based on price and on projects being designed by non licensed engineers.

On June 22, 2015, Gabriel J. Bolas PE , KUB Manager of Environmental Programs and Assistant to Chief Operating Officer was speaker. KUB handles water, waste water, gas and electricity and has 445,000 customers. KUB started in 1939 and it is managed by an independent board appointed by the mayors, KUB has 925 employeesand is the fourth largest TVA distributor. They have 130,000 electric poles to replace by 2060. The lines between substations are 68,000 volts. Substations are connected by optical fiber. KUB has 2300 miles of gas lines. Waste water overflows have been cut 75%. KUB is a very busy place.

On June 29, 2015 Maria Crowe, a mathematics teacher at the Career Magnet Academy spoke on the topic “The importance of STEM education, especially as it relates to East Tennessee”. Ms. Crowe recently arranged a tour of the Career Magnet School for the Technical Society. She coached a successful robot team in the FIRST competition and she is enthusiastic about the robot building as an educational tool. Robot teams need volunteers of almost any kind- but especially ones with technical experience- to interact with the students. Several STEM educators who have joined the Technical Society were in attendance including some who need help with FIRST robot building.

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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in News


TSK News May 2015

May 4, 2015 was a wrap-up of the April 30, 2015 working breakfast at Rothchilds.

On May 11, 2015 Dr. Al Hazari, demonstrated some of the ways he gets student interest in teaching science. (I, Bob Scott, was particularly impressed with him using a tomato catsup packet as a Cartesian diver). Dr. Hazari is Director of the Undergraduate Chemistry Labs at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Hazari’s quest to enhance science appreciation has included a regular goal ito inspire students to become inquisitive about science instead of fearing or dreading it. If you missed his presentation, try to see him somewhere else.

On May 18, 2015 Dr. Don Byerly, Professor Emeritus in the UT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences condensed a billion years in an hour and did it very well. He referred to his new book “The Last Billion Years: A Geologic History of Tennessee” and it is an interesting- almost unbelievable story. I, Bob Scott, looked differently at the seemingly random quartz stones on Mount Leconte after listening to Dr. Byerly.

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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in News


Press Release: TSK Commitment to Educational Excellence

The Technical Society of Knoxville (TSK) Welcomes Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen
with an Unprecedented Commitment to Educational Excellence

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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in News


April 2015 Technical Society News

On April 6, 2014 David Butler, executive director of The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) was the speaker. The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, educates and serves a diverse community, enhances Knoxville’s quality of life, and operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust.

The KMA’s predecessor, the Dulin Gallery of Art, opened in 1961. In March 1990, the Knoxville Museum of Art opened in its current 53,200 square-foot facility. The current facility was an innovative structure and it suffered from being too innovative and it required extensive, creative repairs and alterations after a few years – and the result is a great facility. The museum supplements and complements its core permanent installations with a lively schedule of temporary exhibitions that explore aspects of regional culture and its relation to national and international artistic developments.

In spring 2014 the museum unveiled a permanent, monumental glass installation by acclaimed Knoxville artist Richard Jolley, a powerful affirmation of the KMA’s commitment to the art and artists of our region. The museum has a large bright, open area that can be rented to organizations for functions.

On April 13, 2015 Jerry Harnish, regional director of Rural Metro of Tennessee, spoke on “Fire Protection in Knox County”. Mr. Harnish has 33 years of experience in fire and emergency operations, including six years as fire chief in Knox County. He began his career as a firefighter and emergency medical technician with Rural Metro in 1980 and was named fire chief in 2007. As chief, he has been responsible for protecting 216,500 residents, operating 15 fire stations in Knox County, 12 of which house paramedic engine companies.

Prior to 1970s there was no formal fire protection in Knox County. Rural Metro covers about the same number of people as does the Knoxville city fire department but Rural Metro covers a much greater area. There are several volunteer fire departments in Knox County covering small areas. Most volunteer fire departments- unlike Rural Metro stations- are not manned continuously and as a result have significantly longer response times. About 2/3 of the calls to Rural Metro are for medical emergencies.The financing for fire protection needs to be changed. The subscribers ( insurance companies want houses to be subscribers) pay- basically the fixed costs of Rural Metro and people who are not subscribers pay what seems like a lot when they need help but the nonsubscribers pay only a small: percentage of the annual cost. This is a problem that the county government needs to fix. I, Bob Scott, TSK secretary, found it telling that Mr. Harnish said the Technical Society members had heard more about Knox County fire protection than have the county commissioners.

April 20, 2015 Axel Ringe of the Sierra Club spoke about “Climate Knoxville – an initiative to reduce energy use in the city.” The network was formed in early 2014 to support the City of Knoxville’s Smarter Cities Partnership to weatherize inner-city homes and EPA’s draft Clean Power Plan.

Weatherization of low income resident’s homes has the potential of making a big impact on low income people’s lives by saving money for utilities. Low income people may spend half of their income on KUB bills. A way to give landlords an incentive to lower energy usage is needed

The urban tree canopy is another concern. Currently Knoxville loses about 400 trees each year and plants about 400 trees each year. Some organizations are interested in starting a tree foundation.

April 27, 2015 David Dewhirst, Owner, Dewhirst Properties told how he went from being an aeronautical engineer to a developer and restorer of old buildings. He said he planned to do a few buildings and then retire (he didn’t mention his clock collection- there were too many other questions). He now has a busy organization. How he bought the old Watsons building for $510.000 was remarkable. He has been very successful in restoring buildings profitably but he brought up the need for revisions in the building code and the fire code.

He mentioned “underground Knoxville” but it seems to be in the future.

He thinks downtown is back and he is now looking further out, He was enthusiastic about the First Christian Church and the old Kerns bakery. We will hear more about David.

On April 30 the Technical Society hosted a working breakfast meeting to which representatives from all other STEM societies and STEM teachers were invited. The meeting purpose was to begin adding the role of coordinating society to the Technical Society mission.

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Posted by on April 12, 2015 in News