In March 2020, Trevor Elliott works in his UTC Racing Mocs trailer parked in his home’s driveway, using 3D printers to make parts for face shields that were used by health care and emergency workers to protect them from COVID-19.

A research proposal by Trevor Elliott, UC Foundation assistant professor in mechanical engineering, has won a $542,000 funding award from the National Science Foundation.

The award from the Faculty Early Career Development Program of NSF is the agency’s most prestigious and is designed “in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”

According to NSF, “Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.”

“I’m particularly proud for the department, the college and the University that this is the first ever Career award to originate within the college and be awarded,” Elliott said.

Entered for consideration in NSF’s Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation category, Elliott’s proposal focuses on 3D printing and developing a deeper understanding of how 3D printing as a manufacturing process works and ways to make it more efficient.

Industries such as aerospace, defense, automotive, chemical, energy and health care use 3D printing and would benefit from further research into it, Elliott explained in his proposal.

He also said data from the research can be incorporated into undergraduate courses at the university level as well as being used in outreach to middle-school students.

While he wants to do more research, Elliott is already familiar with 3D printing.

In early 2020, he and about 30 UTC mechanical engineering students used 3D printers to manufacture pieces of the transparent face shields used by health care workers fighting the coronavirus.

At the same time, he and his students also were finding creative ways to make respirators and ventilators using off-the-shelf products, Elliott said. They also are working on designing a version of filtration devices like the N95 mask to fit smaller faces, he added.

“This award is very meaningful for many reasons, one of which is the fact that our mechanical engineering students in the College of Engineering and Computer Science have done such a great job,” Elliott said.

“They have won the first national title and broken the first world record for the college. The relationship to this award is twofold: It is heavily tied with students and outreach, and it is the first ever ‘homegrown Career award for the college. It matches the great work our students have done breaking through in new areas and in big ways!”

This award is not the first national recognition for Elliott’s work. In 2020, he was selected as one of 132 people nationwide to be 2021 Associate Fellows in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The title of Associate Fellow recognizes individuals “who have accomplished or been in charge of important engineering or scientific work, or who have done original work of outstanding merit, or who have otherwise made outstanding contributions to the arts, sciences, or technology of aeronautics or astronautics,” according to the organization.


Media Relations Contacts: Email UTC Media Relations or call 423-425-5119.

Shawn Ryan is the executive staff writer in the Office of Communications and Marketing at UTC.

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1 Comment » for Mechanical engineering professor wins $542,000 award
  1. Godfred Sabbih says:

    Congratulations, well deserved