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Neyland Stadium and the Basler Boathouse at sunset.

Senior design projects offer undergraduate students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, an unprecedented opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world endeavors that have a lasting impact on their surrounding communities.

One civil and environmental engineering team worked on a project close to home: a pair of bridges on the university’s campus. Their efforts earned them the overall senior design award.

Pictured left to right: Hunter Arwine, Cole Emmett, Adam Litton, Russ Edens, Sammy Son, Alex Shafer, and Tristen Keller.
Pictured left to right: Hunter Arwine, Cole Emmett, Adam Litton, Russ Edens, Sammy Son, Alex Shafer, and Tristen Keller.

The team, consisting of Hunter Arwine, Russell Edens, Cole Emmett, Tristen Keller, Adam Litton, Alex Shafer, and Sammy Son, developed demolition and redesign solutions for the Min Kao and Boathouse Bridges that cross Second Creek. Partners included UT Facility Services, the Haines Structural Group, the City of Loudon, Jones Brothers Contractors, and Cannon & Cannon.

The boathouse bridge, which is buckled and sinking to the waterline, had the added challenge of existing structures overhead, including Neyland Drive and a railroad bridge. The existing infrastructure obstructed access to the site and increased the distance that the construction equipment had to span, so the team had to make sure that their design could actually be built.

Shafer, the team lead, noted that this project was all about the team effort.

“In class, we learn pieces of technical information, and the project really required us to put the technical skills together,” he said. “The design process consists of many components that have to be considered and this project put that into perspective. Every member contributed different skills, and it was really cool to see the different components of the project come together.”

At first, the costs associated with the demolition and construction seemed outsized compared to the benefit, until the team hosted forums with the community and received feedback that showed that not fixing the bridge would pose a liability.

During high-traffic events, the bridge is the only way to safely cross Neyland Drive, making the construction of a new bridge a matter of safety and a benefit to greenway users, students, faculty, and game-day fans.

For the Min Kao Bridge, the team did a flood analysis to determine the current water elevations and confirm compliance of the proposed design in accordance with city codes. They conducted a soil analysis to determine soil-bearing capacity at the site.

Edens headed up the floodwater analysis portion of the project, which included creating a model of both existing and proposed conditions of Second Creek. That data was used to determine the impact that raising the Min Kao Bridge would have on the water surface elevations for 100-year and 500-year flood events.

“Water resources was not one of my concentrations, so I had a lot to learn,” he said. “One of the most important things I learned is how to perform a flood study. The most significant aspect of this was how to use HEC-RAS (a computer-based hydrology modeling program) and accurately model a stream during different flood events.”

For both sites, the team had to identify the necessary permits and best management practices applicable to the project. Emmett, the environmental lead, noted that the work included a trash remediation plan to address the buildup at the boathouse bridge.

“This wasn’t my ideal project for my concentration,” said Emmett. “However, I did gain experience developing permits, which might be something I have to do in the future as I am pursuing a master’s degree in environmental engineering.”

The team’s final package included a construction-ready set of drawings, a construction schedule, and estimate of probable cost for the completion of the projects.


David Goddard, (865-974-0683​,