TTU's David Ballard honored as first student to receive Sissom Award

David Ballard recently became the first student-recipient of the Leighton E. Sissom Innovation and Creativity Award at Tennessee Tech University,

Ballard, a mechanical engineering graduate student, was selected for his innovative and creative contributions to TTU's championship Society of Automotive Engineer's Mini Baja team.

"Once David's accomplishments and contributions with the team were shared with the awards committee, he was an easy winner for this year's Sissom Award, " said Glen Johnson, College of Engineering Dean. "We're thrilled to be able to reward a student for innovation and creativity, and we hope that David's selection will encourage nomination of additional students in future years."

Ballard, who served as captain for the 2005-06 season, had primary responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the team that won the 2006 SAE East competition. Mini Baja is a collegiate off-road racing series sponsored by SAE in which college teams from all over the world fabricate vehicles in the hope that their designs will prove to be tough enough to endure the harsh conditions of the race environment yet fast enough to beat the competitors.

"From vehicle design, to vehicle construction, vehicle testing, race preparations, travel, and race participation, David has been a key player," said Johnson. "Without David's ability to innovate in real time, it is unlikely that the team would have enjoyed the level of success that they have experienced in recent years."

Now a graduate student working on new materials in fuel cell research, Ballard says his biggest contribution was the organizational management and experience he brought to a team with a prestigious past.

"I am so honored to received this award, but it is only appropriate that I point out that Mini Baja is synonymous with team and that great teamwork is what I am most proud of when looking at my contribution," said Ballard, who received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from TTU in 2005.

"When I took on the job of leading the team, my goal was to set the younger members up for the future so that the success we've experienced as a team for so many years would continue," said Ballard.

TTU, which has competed in the Mini Baja competition since 1978, won the Dayton Cup, the national Mini Baja award for the year's best team, in 2002 and 2003. The team also has won 11 first place finishes and more than 21 top five finishes in regional competitions.

The award honors Leighton E. Sissom, former dean of TTU's College of Engineering, and recognizes scholarship, methodology, invention, technique and other contributions within TTU's College of Engineering. The recipient of the award can be a faculty member, staff member or student.

Last year's Sissom Award winner was Chemical Engineering Professor Don Visco.

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