Wisconsin Alpha

University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706

Charter Date   March 12, 1916

Chapter No.   2

Advisor   Dr. Darryl Thelen

Chapter Status

Annual Chapter Reports

Wisconsin Alpha

At the University of Wisconsin an independent organization was formed during the same year and along the same lines as Pi Tau Sigma. Correspondence between Professor William Black of the University of Wisconsin and Professor C. R. Richards, University of Illinois, shows the co-incidence not only as to the time but also as to philosophy of the membership.

On November 15, 1915, John B. Wilkinson, Harvey Y. Plate and Roben J. Mensel completed the formation of a local mechanical engineering fraternity, Pi Delta Phi.

O. C. K. Hutchinson, University of Illinois, and J. B. Wilkinson, University of Wisconsin, met early in 1916 to arrange plans for making the organization national, under the name of Pi Tau Sigma. The coalition took place in Chicago, March 12, 1916, at which the matter of chapter designation was decided and the two chapters become Illinois Alpha and Wisconsin Alpha.


2022-2023 Wisconsin Alpha Michael Sohn, President

The 2022-2023 school year allowed our chapter to capitalize on last year’s rebuilding process following the pandemic. The goal of the executive board was to continue with the trend of increasing in-person attendance and commitment to the chapter in addition to fostering a greater sense of community among members, and this was a resounding success. Membership continued to rise, with general meetings typically bringing in fifteen to twenty undergraduate students eager to engage with the presenting speaker’s material and discuss the club’s future. Additionally, this rapid growth does not appear to be slowing down as we inducted fourteen new members across the fall and spring semesters, two of whom have been elected to this coming year’s executive board. Clearly, the future of the Wisconsin Alpha chapter is bright.

The primary means by which the executive board strived to bring the members together was general meetings which appealed to the diverse interests of the club, with there being six of these meetings each semester. Five of the six meetings involved a guest speaker which was either a professor at UW or a representative from a well-respected engineering company. These speakers came from a variety of sub-fields ranging from Biomechanics and Design Consulting to Renewable Energy and HVAC, and this allowed for all members to find a meaningful connection, leading to a better understanding of how to attain their career goals and even positions in research labs. These meetings were followed by meetings of the Design Sub-Team, which worked on a project with the local Henry F. Vilas Zoo. The remaining meeting involved a collaborative event with UW-Madison’s ASME chapter, whom we had established a relationship with last year. Both clubs helped to plan a Professor Research Event in which all attendees could meet with 10 of UW’s Mechanical Engineering professors to discuss their research and potentially find a position which interested them. This event was highly successful each semester and is something we hope to replicate in future years. There was additionally a greater emphasis on building community through social events, which the executive board went about doing by hosting Trivia Night, Skate Night, and Ice Skating Night. On a larger scale, the chapter obtained funding from the department to send four members to represent UW-Madison at the International Conference, and these members in addition to former president and SpaceX employee Jack Tamar presented their stories at the annual Chapter Banquet. All in all, the chapter grew in numbers, productivity, national presence, and comradery as a result of the semester’s events.

Overall, we consider this year to be a resounding success and feel it has been a stepping stone in the chapter’s path towards a dominant presence on the engineering campus. The executive board is eager to get to work planning this coming year and is planning to propose UW-Madison as the host of the 2025 International Conference, and the new initiates are eager to invest themselves deeper into the chapter. 2023-2024 serves to be an exciting year ripe with opportunities.

2021-2022 Wisconsin Alpha Ethan Foley, President

The 2021-2022 school year was a year of rebuilding for our chapter. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic there was a drop off in membership involvement during the 2020-2021 school year. Our goal as an executive board this year was to get that involvement back so in the coming years our chapter would be set up to have an impact not just on the UW Madison student body but the Madison community as well. We held our first in person events in over a year and that alone brought back some of the involvement we had seen before the pandemic. Along with old members becoming more involved we were able to add 14 new members across the fall and spring semester that are already heavily involved in our chapter’s activities. 

To help retain this involvement the executive board focused on creating general meetings that were fulfilling for members. This was achieved through inviting faculty selected by the students to speak about their research and how our members could get involved. We had six general meetings in the fall and four in the spring. Each faculty member brought a unique presentation that allowed for a conversation with the members afterwards where both the faculty members and our members in attendance could get to know each other. This allowed for the meetings to be both informational and networking opportunities for our members who want to get involved in research on campus. In addition to meeting faculty, we were invited to a UW Madison ASME meeting to hear one of our former presidents, Jack Tamar, speak about his job at SpaceX. This event was very popular among our members and we hope to do more joint meetings like this in the future. Outside of our clubs meetings we brought back our design team to partner with Cardinal Manufacturing, a student run manufacturing company in Strum, WI. This partnership allowed us to help the students with their designs while giving members of our chapter opportunities in hands-on engineering work.

Overall, this year we laid the groundwork for a chapter in the future that has a greater impact on the UW Madison student body and surrounding community. With the members we have added this year we hope to have that opportunity by being more involved in campus activities, philanthropy, and design competitions. We are excited for what the 2022-2023 school year holds for the Wisconsin Alpha chapter of Pi Tau Sigma. 

2018-2019 Wisconsin Alpha Jack Tamar, President

During the 2018-19 scholastic year at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Pi Tau Sigma made waves with a very strong year. In the preceding few years, the organization had declined and membership was far below the desired numbers to be able to hold substantial events. In this single year alone, the organization was able to double their numbers, initiating 20 new members!  Along with this great accomplishment, the Wisconsin-Alpha chapter of Pi Tau Sigma was able to make headway in returning to its former state by organizing more fulfilling events for its members. PTS hosted several meetings, which included speaking with professors about their research, coordinating a joint meeting with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and organizing a partnership for community outreach. This new partnership is with local Wisconsin high school students in Strum, WI. Over the next year and beyond, Pi Tau Sigma will work together with the student run manufacturing company Cardinal Manufacturing on their varying tasks and provide insight on what it is like to be an engineer. As college students, our members can use this partnership to teach the high school students about engineering design as well as help them create products to solve real world problems in their community. Furthermore this year, Pi Tau Sigma began coordinating with other honor societies in the UW-Madison College of Engineering in hopes of holistically tackling some of the tough engineering problems the university faces. This includes attempting to restore the historic Descendant’s Fountain in the Engineering Mall to working condition after years of disuse and corrosion. These large scale projects are what PTS-Wisconsin Alpha looks forward to continuing into the future with help from the new member base!

Lastly during the 2018-19 school year, Pi Tau Sigma was fortunate enough to send a representative to the PTS national convention in Fort Collins, Colorado and support the event with donations. This experience allowed for our members to begin communication with several other PTS chapters, specifically based in the Midwest, which led to talks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison potentially hosting a Midwest convention and possibly even a national convention in the near future. Looking into the 2019-20 school year, the Wisconsin-Alpha chapter plans to expand Pi Tau Sigma’s presence on campus even further through new events, community outreach, and recruiting even more active members.