Meet Team Tennessee

 As we rev up for the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge Year One competition, Team Tennessee is excited to introduce its team leads.

Dean Blanks, Project Manager

Dean Blanks is a first-year dual master’s student in business administration and mechanical engineering from Tullahoma, Tennessee. Blanks attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to complete his Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering. As an undergraduate student, Blanks served as a machining and testing intern for Nissan North America and an engineering Intern for Cubic Transportation. This is his first year involved with AVTCs, and he’s looking forward to adding to his multidisciplinary education in a meaningful way.

In addition to his work with EcoCAR, Blanks enjoys showing his UT pride in other ways. He hopes to watch the Vols play football in every SEC football stadium before the age of 30. So far, he has checked 11 of the 14 schools off the list.


Whitney Brothers, Communications Manager

Whitney Brothers is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville studying public relations and business administration. Originally from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, she has a heart for the Volunteer State and a growing love for the city of Knoxville. Brothers’ experience ranges across fields and sectors from scientific communication in architecture and design to nonprofit and higher education recruiting messaging. By working with the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge competition, Brothers is excited to expand her knowledge and experience in scientific communication.

In her free time, she enjoys engaging with the Knoxville community both on and off campus. Whether volunteering with the kids ministry at her or visiting local coffee shops and restaurants around the city, she loves to spend time getting to know people and their stories.

PSI Lead, Russell Graves

To say Graves is a ‘Vol for Life’ is an understatement. Graves is a Knoxville native and two-time graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In his third year of his Ph.D. program, Graves’ research is focused on distributed control systems in mechanical engineering. His research of cooperative systems aligns with the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, and he is thrilled to begin applying his research to the project. In his free time, Graves enjoys traveling. From Iceland to Thailand, he enjoys experiencing and learning from new cultures.


Ramin Nabati, CAVs Lead

Ramin Nabati is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Computer Engineering at UT. Nabati received a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering from Urmia University and a master’s of science in electrical engineering from Isfahan University of Technology in Iran. Nabati brings extensive knowledge and experience in communication systems and machine learning to the team. He is looking forward leading the charge of the new component of the connected and automated vehicle technologies team in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge.

Outside of his research, Nabati likes participating in hack-a-thons and enjoys kayaking and cycling.

Zachariah Nelson, Engineering Manager

As a first-year Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, Zachariah Nelson is eager to be involved with new and exciting research topics concerning the EcoCar Mobility Challenge.

Originally from Franklin, Tennessee, Nelson received a bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering from Lipscomb University in Nashville. His research interests include robotics, 3D modeling, machine learning and programming.

In addition to his work with EcoCAR, Nelson enjoys working with and mentoring future engineers. Previously, Nelson served as a mentor in UT’s High School Introduction to Engineering Systems (HITES) program and currently serves as a graduate teaching assistant.


Dennis Owens, Mechanical Lead 

Dennis Owens is a senior at UT studying mechanical engineering. Owens’ passion for cars sparked his interest in serving with EcoCar 3 and the EcoCar Mobility Challenge. In addition to AVTCs, Owens is serving as a assistant design engineer on a project with the U.S. Navy.  On the weekends, Owens enjoys volunteering with the video production team in a local church, continually helping however he can on his naval project and staying physically active.

Joseph Stockli, CSMS Lead

Joseph Stockli is a first-year master’s student in mechanical engineering at UT. His interest in automotive engineering sparked his involvement in AVTC’s. Stockli’s previous experience includes conducting research in 3D metal printing systems with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and serving as the engineering manager and system safety manager for EcoCAR 3.   Outside of school and work, he enjoys snowboarding and soccer.