South Dakota Phi Alpha

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Rapid City, SD 57701

Charter Date   April 3, 1981

Chapter No.   122

Advisor   Dr. Pierre Larochelle

Chapter Status   

Annual Chapter Reports

South Dakota Phi Alpha

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was established by an act of the legislature of Dakota Territory in 1885 as the Dakota School of Mines. A Department of Mechanical Engineering was approved by the Board of Regents in 1943, and the master of science program for mechanical engineering was approved in 1947.

The constant growth of the department and the continued emphasis on excellence among mechanical engineering students led to the decision to petition the National Council for a chapter of Pi Tau Sigma honorary society to be installed at SDSM&T. Under the direction of Dr. C. E. Chiang, Department Head, Pi Tau Sigma was inaugurated in the spring of 1981.

The chapter was formally installed on April 3, 1981, with 34 charter members.Present at the installation were National President Alexander R. Peters, Vice-President John N. Crisp, and the Secretary-Treasurer Hudy Hewitt, Jr.

The already-active chapter has gained more members and has made plans for a contest for fund raising purposes. A system is also being developed to provide tutoring by both Pi Tau Sigma members and mechanical engineering faculty. 


2022-2023: Armand Lannerd, President

The Phi Alpha chapter participated in multiple university and community service events throughout this past year, in addition to having an initiation each semester. Notably, the chapter started off the fall by participating in the annual freshman welcome weekend. A group of PTS members and freshman went and hiked the Crow Peak trail in the northern Black Hills, summiting the 6th highest point in the Black Hills. The chapter then had a quiet rest of the fall, but had a number of plans for the spring. Early on in the spring semester, in celebration of MLK day, five members from the chapter collected food donations at a local Family Fare, collecting over 200 lbf of food for Feeding South Dakota. Overall, South Dakota Mines collected nearly 2,000 lbf on this day. Next, in celebration of Engineering Week in February, and in coordination with the local chapter of ASME, the chapter organized a campus-wide engineering challenge. While ASME provided most of the funds for building materials, PTS performed most of the planning, advertising, and running of the event. The event itself was an egg-drop challenge with a twist. This twist was that a target was placed on the ground 75’ from the drop. With this then, not only did the egg need to survive the usual fall, but points were also awarded for how close the egg landed to the target. Overall, eight teams participated in the event and three gift card prizes were given out for highest overall score, best overall design, and most creative design. The chapter hopes to host a campus-wide E-Week challenge annually moving forward. To close out the spring semester, Armand Lannerd (president at the time), represented the Phi Alpha chapter at the 2023 PTS National Convention at Auburn.

2021-2022: Kole Pickner, President

Phi Alpha chapter participated in multiple community service and university events over the last year.

In October, we helped represent the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology’s Mechanical Engineering department at an event called Go To Mines! This was part of a series of open house events our university hosts for prospective students to learn more about our university and our various departments. PTS members answered questions about our experiences and general information.

In January, we ran a booth at our university’s Spring Student Organization Fair, offering information about our organization to students who might be interested in joining if eligible. We also participated alongside several also student organizations in the MLK Day of Service canned food drive for nonprofit Feeding South Dakota. Members of our chapter partnered with a grocery store to ask customers to buy and donate food items or cash. PTS collected 455 lb of food and $53.

In February, PTS assisted ASME in running a Mechanical Engineering station for Engineering and Science Day, and annual event in which middle school students from the area participate in various activities related to STEM fields at our university. We gave presentations on what Mechanical Engineering is and ran activities illustrating robotics, gear ratios, motors, and pulleys.

Finally, in March, Kole Pickner (acting President at the time) represented the Phi Alpha chapter at the 2022 Pi Tau Sigma National Convention in Chicago, IL.

2020-2021: Austin Kaul, President

The 2020-2021 academic year was filled with many challenges for South Dakota Phi Alpha chapterlike so many other organizations on campus. With the COVID-19 pandemic striking only a yearafter our chapter became active again, our already small organization was set back even further.With the pandemic preventing initiation in the Spring of 2020, our remaining members consistedof only officers. With four active members the challenge to keep our chapter alive became our focusover the 2020-2021 academic year. Restriction to meet in person prevented an initiation in Fall2020. A majority of the year was devoted to planning activities that our chapter could delve intoonce the pandemic was over. Thus, ideas of outreach at local elementary schools, tutoring, hostingdesign competitions, starting an annual ME tradition became the topic of discussion. The planfor tutoring is quite extensive and involves members to join the already well established tutoringsystem on campus and have a significant presence in tutoring other mechanical engineers. The MEdepartment at SDSM&T wants to start an annual event/competition/tradition that will endureso efforts were put into ideas and the logistics of what such an event would entail and how theSDSM&T Pi Tau Sigma Phi-Alpha chapter could host or help host such an event. Spring 2021allowed for the initiation of 6 new members to once again revitalize our chapter.

2019-2020: Daniel Boe, President

The South Dakota Phi Alpha chapter was reactivated at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Campus during the spring 2019 semester.  Thus, the 2019-2020 academic year represented the first full year of operation for the re-formed group. Our focus this academic year was to establish a presence on campus through departmental tutoring and student hosted workshop sessions.  However, the first order of business for this year involved working with the SDSM&T student association senate to draft chapter bylaws in accordance with university policy.  In late fall 2019, South Dakota Phi Alpha was officially accepted by the student association senate as a university organization. Earlier on in the fall, president Daniel Boe hosted an ``Introduction to Python for Engineers'' workshop session on campus.  A second such session was planned for the spring semester but was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Also, beginning in spring 2020, SD Phi Alpha began hosting open tutoring sessions twice a week.  Unfortunately, these too were cut short due to the pandemic.  Two new members joined in spring 2020 by way of virtual initiation.

2018-2019: Daniel Boe, President 

After a decade of dormancy, the South Dakota Phi Alpha chapter was reactivated at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Campus during the spring 2019 semester.  The effort to reform SD Phi Alpha was led by Dr. Nickolaus Bruno (Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering). In mid-January, Dr. Bruno obtained a list of qualified students in accordance with Article III of the Pi Tau Sigma Constitution. The first initiation was held on March 18, 2019.  Mechanical engineering faculty and PTS members Dr. Pierre Larochelle and Dr. Dan Dolan acted as chapter president and vice president for this initial ceremony. In addition to nine undergraduate students and two graduate students, Dr. Nickolaus Bruno was initiated as an honorary member so he could serve as the faculty advisor for the chapter going forward. Because of the logistics associated with reforming the chapter as an university recognized organization and the relatively late initiation, no chapter activities were held.  However, several meetings were conducted to begin discussion of future activities and initiation requirements as well as accomplishing the necessary organizational tasks before the semesters' end.