Charitable Project Is Friendly Competition with Virginia Tech as Schools Prep for Football in September

Smokey's playhouse at the UT Institute of Agriculture

On May 26 students in the University of Tennessee Construction Science Program unveiled Smokey's Playhouse, the university's entry in the "Battle of the Habitat Playhouses" competition withVirginia Tech for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity. The playhouses are to be raffled in advance of the schools' epic football game scheduled for September 10 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The game is being called the Flying J Battle at Bristol.  Click here to see a full view of the playhouse​. Photo courtesy UTIA.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.  –  It’s more than three months until the Tennessee Volunteers kickoff against the Virginia Tech Hokies at the Bristol Motor Speedway. However, there’s already a friendly competition between the two schools, and a charitable organization will benefit.

Students from the University of Tennessee College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) and Virginia Tech are building playhouses to be raffled off this summer in the “Battle of the Habitat Playhouses.” Proceeds will go to Holston Habitat for Humanity in Kingsport.

It’s a fun way to be part of the “Flying J Battle at Bristol” football game September 10 at the Bristol Motor Speedway in what’s expected to be the largest crowd ever at a college game – close to 150,000 fans.

The students have been working on the project about a month. Smokey’s Doghouse is 8 feet by 5 feet, and includes a front porch, arched doorway, windows, and of course, the predominant color is orange. The students unveiled their creation on the UT Institute of Agriculture campus.

“This project brings some unique opportunities to our students,” says Charlie Parker, director of the construction science program and faculty leader of this project. “We’re putting together skills on the project that we have learned about in the classroom, and we’re putting those to use.”

"We’re getting a lot of hands-on experience, getting to learn how to build rafters and walls and putting doors together and different things like that,” says Ethan Greer, a senior in construction science.

Ethan is one of CASNR’s first classes of construction science majors. The program is part of the Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science Department and is the fastest-growing academic program in the UT system. Leaders say graduates are in high demand in the construction job market.

“We’ve been placing 100 percent of our students,” says Parker. “We have graduated about 30 so far. We have eight coming out this spring and next fall we’re going to have 18.”

Representatives of Holston Habitat were on hand for the unveiling. The group also came to the UT agriculture campus earlier this spring to present donations from Eastman Chemical Company for $3,000 and Lowe’s for $1,500.

“We build between eight and 14 houses in our service area annually,” says Trish Patterson of Holston Habitat, and also an alumna of UT. “We also give back a tithe to Habitat for Humanity International, and build an equal number of houses internationally.”

“Battle of the Habitat Playhouses” is an excellent opportunity for students to utilize the skills they are learning in the classroom while familiarizing themselves with Eastman materials,” says Chrissy Idlette, Eastman Public Affairs Representative. “The battle off the playing field is a great way to build excitement for the game, but more importantly, we are raising awareness of the good work of Habitat for Humanity and providing opportunities for our communities to make a positive impact.”

The playhouses from both universities will soon start a tour of from Knoxville to Blacksburg, Virginia. Tickets for the raffle will be available for $10 at

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.



Dr. Charlie Parker, 865-974-7177,

Charles Denney,