Three Honored for Work in Engineering Academics and Research

They've helped leading national industries, served their students well and even changed the way engineering students do their homework. For these efforts, three Tennessee Technological University professors have been recognized by the College of Engineering for their work in academics and research.

Craig Henderson, civil and environmental engineering assistant professor ; Ahmad Smaili, associate mechanical engineering professor; and John Peddison, mechanical engineering professor, accepted the college's three top honors at the university's recent Engineer's Week banquet.

Henderson received the Leighton E. Sissom Innovation and Creativity Award, named for the former College of Engineering dean. Smaili accepted the Kinslow Award for carrying on the research traditions of Ray Kinslow, who taught at Tennessee Tech for 32 years and served as head of Engineering Science and Mechanics for 25 years. Peddison was awarded the Brown-Henderson Award, which honors outstanding performance in teaching and research or service and carries the names of Engineering Dean Emeritus James Seay Brown and James Henderson, the college's first dean.


The nation's leading industries often look to Peddieson for answers to complex problems, earning him respect as a practical problem solver. He's produced mathematical models for fiber spinning and bending perforated plates for Eastman Chemical Co., for filtration processes at Fleetguard Inc. and for unsteady combustion for NASA.

In nominating Peddieson for the award, Tennessee Tech assistant mechanical engineering professor John Chai pointed out Peddieson's positive impact on Tennessee industry and the scholarly achievements related to his research.

"He's setting an outstanding example, one which might never be repeated at Tennessee Tech," said Chai,. "He has 188 technical publications to date, and the majority of his publications are in peer reviewed journals."

Peddieson's demonstrates his grasp of teaching by being one of the few professors in the country to teach a significant number of courses in both major branches of mechanical engineering, thermal science and machine design. But Chai asserts Peddieson's greatest strength is his consideration of students.

"Students are always his first priority, " said Chai. "For example, he will always attend to students who come to his office even when another faculty member is having a technical discussion with him."


Craig Henderson's Homework Laboratory is a teacher's dream. The CD-ROM based program prevents the possibility of students copying homework assignments and relieves the professor from grading hundreds, even thousands, of homework problems.

The software contains the same problems as an Addision-Wesley Longman statics textbook Ñ with one major difference. The physical parameters of the engineering problems, like dimensions and forces, are randomized so that the correct final answer for each student is different.

"The idea is completely new and innovative," said Dallas Smith, civil and environmental engineering professor. "Such a powerful idea has the potential to spread quickly and eventually become a standard feature of all engineering textbooks. If that happens, Henderson must be recognized as the originator."

The Homework Laboratory benefits to students by giving practice and coaching on any problem as well as offering randomized and timed practice tests. Henderson recently submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to test the concept at improving student understanding and retention.


Think of the work you could accomplish if each of your hands performed two or three jobs at once. Manufacturers may benefit from the equivalent in machinery thanks to Ahmad Smaili's research.

The associate professor in mechanical engineering, who won the 1996 Kinslow Award, received this year's award for his published work on robomechs, a new class of linkage arms representing a cross-fertilization between mechanisms and robots.

"This concept provides a new class of mechanical arms that can do more with less when used in applications such as assembly, packaging, material handling and other manufacturing processes," said Smaili.

The robomech's main feature can be illustrated using a human hand analogy. A conventional mechanism or robot can play the role of only one hand performing single- function tasks. For dual-functions, a manufacturer needs two robots or mechanisms, just as a person would need two hands. Triple-function tasks would take three robots or three hands, and so on.

A single robomech can be equipped to perform dual-, triple- or multi-functional tasks simultaneously. One robomech potentially can be designed with as many "hands" as needed to do a specific job.

"An application example is inserting a peg in a hole in a plate," said Smaili. "With conventional robots, you need one to carry the plate and another to insert the peg in the hole. With a two-end effector or two-handed robomech, the same operation is performed by one robomech. In addition the insertion process could be performed on the fly."