Skip to content

UTSI Professor Mentors Student THS Senior Entering MHD Project in Chattanooga Regional Exhibit

It was an ambitious project for Tullahoma High School senior Kirk Davenport, but he was determined to build an “MHD” generator.

Kirk will take his magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) project to the 54th Annual Chattanooga Regional Science and Engineering Fair March 13-16. His entry last year – a hybrid rocket — placed first in the regional fair. Since there was no state competition, Kirk was allowed to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz.

In recent test-firings of his table-top project – in a research lab at The University of Tennessee Space Institute – Kirk succeeded in measuring electrical current although he did not reach the power levels he had wanted.

Trevor Moeller, research associate professor at UTSI, agreed to mentor Kirk on the project, and Kirk’s father Joel Davenport, a research associate at the Institute, gave him moral support.

“Kirk knew that it was a very ambitious project,” said Moeller, “but that didn’t stop him. I was impressed with his grasp of the principles involved in his project. He was exceptionally methodical and thorough.”

Moeller, who is involved in developing a much larger MHD generator at UTSI, thinks Kirk is “very mature in his judgment and dedication and should have a bright future in science.”

William Hofmeister, research professor and director of UTSI’s Center for Laser Applications, also was impressed with Kirk – so much so that he has hired him as a summer intern.

Kirk is enrolled in an Independent Study course at THS that awards Advancement (college) Credit when he competes in the Chattanooga fair. While he has no “science teacher” as such this year, Kirk and his father both highly praised his THS advisors Frank Vanzant and Harold Liner as well as his English teacher Diane Sawyer.

Vanzant, a faculty sponsor for the Independent Study Math/Science Thesis Program at THS for 15 years, thanked Moeller for his participating and noted that “UTSI has been very supportive of our work by providing facilities and mentors.”

The young scientist also expressed gratitude for being allowed to work in a corner of a lab at UTSI, adding, “I even found some spare parts in a scrap pile out here, and that was nice.”