Rapid City, SD, United States
Rapid City, SD, United States

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is a public institution of higher learning in Rapid City, South Dakota governed by the South Dakota Board of Regents. Founded in 1885 as the Dakota School of Mines, Tech offers degree programs in engineering and science fields. 2,311 students were enrolled in fall 2011. The school athletic teams are called the Hardrockers. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 566.70K | Year: 2015

In an increasingly globally connected world, solutions to real world problems are complex in nature and often outside the boundaries of traditional practice. Thus, future practicing engineers need to be supported through educational systems that teach them not only technical skills, but professional skills such as awareness of social and cultural implications of their designs, understanding and appreciation of diversity, and additional skills in project management, collaboration, and effective communication. The EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) program is an example of an innovation in engineering education which has been shown to present engineering in context, prepare students for the profession, impact their engineering identity, as well as significantly improve the diversity of those participating. In this project, an EPICS program is being established at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT). A unique aspect of this program is that it is institutionalizing existing collaborative design opportunities with a tribal college, the Oglala Lakota College and establishing 50% of the design projects to meet critical needs of stakeholders on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

This project is investigating the impacts of service learning on participating students intellectual diversity, critical thinking skills, and attitudes towards sustainability, social awareness, stakeholder involvement in engineering design by applying advanced assessment tools, including the Herrmann Brain Dominance Inventory, Reasoning About Current Issues Test, and the Lancaster Approaches to Studying Questionnaire. This project will increase critical thinking skills, engage culturally and intellectually diverse students, and improve student attitudes concerning their engineering studies and engineering as a profession.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 300.00K | Year: 2016

This project, developing a scalable high performance computational system, aims to support the acquisition, processing, and dissemination of data collected by the recently constructed Lattice Light-Sheet Microscope (LLSM). Developed in collaboration between SDSMT, the University of South Dakota (USD), and South Dakota State University (SDSU), the instrument contributes to multiple proposed fluorescence imaging research projects, especially those in conjunction with the statewide Biochemical Spatiotemporal NeTwork Resource (BioSNTR) collaboration. The unified implementation allows investigators to access and apply any set of algorithms to any set of on-line imagery, independent of where the data resides and without requiring data conversion before processing. The power of the LLSM lies in its ability to capture high-speed three-dimensional (3-D) data constructed from wide-field fluorescence images, resulting in real-time volumetric imaging of living cells at sub-wavelength spatial resolution. To effectively utilize the capabilities of this advanced microscopy technique, significant computational hardware and software solutions must be developed to address the specific needs of this ultra-wide bandwidth system. The instrumentation also includes a web-portal design to allow geographically distant researchers seamless access to large volumes of fluorescence imagery. The instrumentation enables important studies that could contribute to the fundamental understanding of signaling processes in diverse biological systems and support the development of future bio-technologies, including improved bio-materials, improved understanding of cell signaling, and improved understanding of drought-tolerant plant species.

The instrumentation supports the need to dynamically visualize the evolution of fluorescently labeled markers within cellular and sub-cellular compartments of biological systems to inform bioinformatics studies and systems biology approaches towards the understanding and discovery of regulatory networks in biological systems, and to reveal the architecture of important biological systems studied with the LLSM. This project serves as the nexus for collaborative science undertaken by a diverse group of physicists, computer scientists, biologists, and chemical engineers with broad scientific, educational, and societal impacts. Methods for 3-D volumetric fluorescence imaging within cellular and sub-cellular compartments of animal and plant biological systems are necessary to extend current understanding of living systems. The impetus for the instrument resides in the need to tightly couple initial and subsequent bioimage informatics processing with the LLSM instrument itself, providing investigators with transparent and seamless access to the instrument, data, and appropriate processing techniques. Furthermore, the proposal emphasizes the significant effort needed to both collect and develop the appropriate techniques needed for this bioimage informatics initiative.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: OCEAN TECH & INTERDISC COORDIN | Award Amount: 167.38K | Year: 2016

Long-term, unattended operation of oceanographic instrumentation is dependent on the availability of power to operate the instruments. The PIs will investigate new wave power conversion technologies for use in operating oceanographic instrumentation at sea.

Current wave energy conversion technologies make wave power bulky and uneconomical for oceanographic and ocean science applications. The PIs request funding to investigate enhancements that may enable integration of wave power conversion hardware into small oceanographic buoys. The proposed effort represents a significant advance over current wave energy conversion approaches and is expected to be an important step towards making wave power utilization cost-effective for ocean sensing applications.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT | Award Amount: 360.00K | Year: 2015


The proposed research site will recruit undergraduate students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The vicinity of the host institution, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT), to a number of Tribal Colleges and Universities affords SDSMT a unique opportunity to introduce research to American Indians students and provide them with the resources to complete degrees in the STEM fields.

The site is entitled Technical Experience in Advancing Modeling Sciences (TEAMS). As the name implies, the research projects will involve modeling in a number of areas including materials, defense, renewable energy, and three-dimensional printing. The projects will be performed in parallel with experiments to best expose the participants to the research area and to best connect their findings to problems of interest. For example, one modeling project will investigate why purification materials in biofuel production (i.e., ethanol from corn) clog up. By understanding what occurs at the molecular level, and how the material interacts with the waste byproducts, the models can influence the design of new materials for these applications.

Also, modeling projects are inherently collaborative, so the site will also teach students how to work in collaborative (i.e., team) environments. A number of skills feed into effective collaborative relationships, so workshops, seminars, and activities will be conducted to assist participants in developing these collaborative skills. Some examples include teamwork building, writing workshops, and large data set analysis. The ultimate goal is to provide the TEAMS REU participants the tools and experiences to increase their success as they pursue STEM careers.


The purpose of the proposed research is to host a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site entitled Technical Experience in Advancing Modeling Sciences (TEAMS). The TEAMS REU site aims to provide undergraduates with the opportunity to make a significant contribution to collaborative modeling research projects. Specifically, the goals of the TEAMS REU site are as follows: (i) provide research opportunities in a number of modeling mediums including molecular dynamics, transport phenomenon, and solid mechanics, (ii) develop students appreciation of team diversity and collaborative efforts in research, (iii) enhance students teamwork, communication, critical thinking, and professional skills, (iv) expose students to the importance of modeling in a number of fields, (v) transition students from pre-engineering programs into four-year degree programs, (vi) guide students to pursue graduate programs, and (vii) increase the opportunities for underrepresented groups.

A number of activities are planned to meet these objectives. Some examples include developing teamwork skills, exposing students to modeling work outside the REU site, and writing workshops to enhance communication ability. The reason for developing these skills is because they are all important to modeling research. For example, modeling research is typically collaborative. As such, projects require researchers to work in a team setting and communicate their respective perspectives and expertise to their collaborative partners. Other objectives involve preparing participants for four-year or graduate programs and enhancing participation of underrepresented groups like American Indians. An example seminar is designed to guide students on how to identify and apply fora graduate program meeting their interests. With regards to research opportunities, a number of modeling projects have been designed to be completed by undergraduates within a years time. These projects coincide with current experimental efforts and will complement those efforts.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENG DIVERSITY ACTIVITIES | Award Amount: 495.00K | Year: 2016

A goal of the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) is to increase the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) instructional and research capacities of specific institutions of higher education that serve the Nations indigenous students. The PEEC-II track provides support for studies or educational research conducted by institutions that have had earlier Pre-Engineering Education Collaborative (PEEC) awards. The intent of PEEC-II is to capture, analyze, and disseminate the impact of these awards on the participating institutions, faculty, or students, and their communities. PEEC and PEEC-II are partnerships between TCUP and the Directorate for Engineering.

During PEEC-I, Oglala Lakota College (OLC) in conjunction with collaborators the College of Engineering at the South Dakota State University (SDSU) and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT), referred to as OLC/SDSU/SDSMT PEEC (OSSPEEC), established infrastructure and capacity for students entering OLC to graduate from SDSU or SDSMT with engineering degrees. In PEEC-II, they will investigate the impact of the OSSPEEC model, which emphasizes the importance of experiential learning, incorporation of the Lakota world view and cultural perspective in engineering learning and decision making, and development of self-confidence in solving engineering problems.

The intellectual merit of this project lies in understanding the value of the OSSPEEC model and what factors lead to American Indian success in pre-engineering and engineering programs. The integrated research and experiential learning aspects of the project have the potential to generate knowledge related to water resources and geological engineering on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The broader impacts of this project will be 1) increased diversity in a globally engaged engineering workforce, 2) expanded tribal ability to address issues related to land use, drinking water, and sustainable housing and food production, and 3) a model of culturally centered classroom activities and relevant co-curricular research, project and maker activities.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT | Award Amount: 348.23K | Year: 2016

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, along with its partner organizations, the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University, will offer an innovative Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) Site focused on interdisciplinary research dedicated to Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology (SPACT), for a diverse group of undergraduate students, targeting Tribal Colleges and other institutions with limited STEM research opportunities. The SPACT research theme is of great societal importance. Counterfeiting is a growing issue in the U.S., posing serious economic, safety and national security concerns and impacting a wide variety of industries (e.g. pharmaceutics, semiconductors). In this REU Site students will conduct research on transformative anti-counterfeiting technology. SPACT is a field which demands development in four key areas: advanced materials, advanced manufacturing/patterning technologies, detection and encryption technology, and software and database infrastructure. The SPACT REU will implement a unique undergraduate research program to curb the economic losses and health and safety risks associated with counterfeiting.

The key objectives of this 10-week summer REU Site are to: 1) conduct transformative research in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment, and 2) provide STEM professional development opportunities to a diverse group of 10 undergraduate students, each year for three years. A team of faculty mentors from the three partner institutions, all with demonstrated experience in mentoring undergraduate researchers, will implement a program in SPACT by applying research methods from various fields of science and engineering. Participants will develop collaborative research skills via carefully designed research projects and training seminars. Students will participate in a highly integrated professional development and technical communications program. The faculty, alongside industry leaders, will deliver training seminars to broaden the students existing academic training in the necessary SPACT areas. The long-term goal of this REU Site is to provide a diverse group of STEM researchers with the training and skills needed to pursue graduate studies at the highest levels and to advance the developing field of SPACT.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: EXP PROG TO STIM COMP RES | Award Amount: 168.00K | Year: 2016

The origin of the elements has been identified by the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee as one of the most important questions of our day. Current astronomical observations indicate that many elements found commonly on Earth were first synthesized in the center of stars, where fusion and other nuclear reactions take place. These nuclear reactions control the associated energy generation and evolution of stars. However, the stellar conditions are difficult to reproduce in the laboratory. Under the special conditions proposed here, using a novel compact accelerator placed deep underground, some of the key nuclear reactions that take place in stars can be measured. The goal of this research is to measure nuclear processes that are part of a chain of reactions leading to the synthesis of elements. These are the elements that make possible life on Earth.

The project seeks to study the strength of stellar neutron sources that drive the s-process, one of the two dominant sources for the production of heavy elements. One of the most critical processes is alpha-particle induced reactions on Ne-22, producing Mg-25 plus a neutron, but other alpha-neutron reactions may also play a role depending on the stellar environment. However, the large cosmic ray induced neutron background has been prohibitive for advancing these measurements into the stellar energy range and the present reaction rates rely on theoretical extrapolations that carry high uncertainties. There has been no facility where these measurements can be pursued in a background neutron free environment. Over the past years the CASPAR (Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Re¬search) instrumentation has been constructed at the Sanford Underground Research Facility to address this need. CASPAR operates a 1 million-Volt, high intensity, fully refurbished Van de Graaff accelerator that can provide alpha beam intensities of several hundred micro-Ampere. The proposed experiments rely on the use of a solid and a recirculating gas target system and a He-3 detector system for neutron counting. Successful implementation of a science program at CASPAR will offer a competitive opportunity for the US nuclear astrophysics community to maintain leadership in the field. It will provide a world-wide unique opportunity to study stellar helium burning reactions associated with the synthesis of carbon and the neutron production for trans-iron nuclei.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING | Award Amount: 506.00K | Year: 2015

CBET - 1454102

CAREER: Corrosion Resistance of Nano-meter Graphene Coatings in Aggressive Microbial Environment

The annual costs for the direct and indirect effects of metallic corrosion on infrastructure have been reported to reach nearly $1 trillion in United States. Microbial corrosion accounts for nearly 20-40 % of the total corrosion costs. While there are several protective coatings available for metal protection, the commercial coatings tend to fail in the aqueous and microbial environments. The central goal of this project is to investigate a new class of minimally invasive (thickness of few nanometers), pin-hole-free, robust, and protective coatings made from conformal graphene for use against microbial corrosion. This CAREER project enables the rational design of the next generation of minimally invasive, nanometer-scale, microbial-corrosion resistant coatings featuring graphene building blocks. It will focus on four broader impact objectives: 1) to develop an Adobe-director-based virtual laboratory to provide students with hands-on tutorials on microbial corrosion/Gr experiments; 2) to integrate graphene research in undergraduate curriculum; 3) to encourage under-represented American Indians (from 9 SD reservations) to join BS and MS degrees; and 4) to work with educational experts to evaluate the educational/outreach activities.

This CAREER proposal seeks to make fundamental contributions in our understanding on why graphene works effectively under microbial conditions. Towards this end, the PI will use Desulfovibrio vulgaris as a model for sulfate-reducing bacteria to investigate the effectiveness of graphene-coatings under varying stimuli related to: i) electrochemical constraints, ii) physiological parameters, iii) the point defects in graphene, iv) wettability of graphene, v) cytotoxicity of graphene, and, vi) graphene-production techniques. In preliminary studies, a detailed electrochemical analysis revealed that the graphene offers ~100-fold improvement in microbial corrosion resistance compared to Parylene coatings, ~41-fold compared to bare graphene, and ~10-fold compared to polyurethane coatings. These findings shows a promise for microbial corrosion-resistant graphene coatings as their average thickness (1-2 nm) is 25-fold smaller than Parylene (40-50 nm), and 4000-fold smaller than polyurethane (20-80 micron). The microscopy and spectroscopy techniques revealed that the microbes observed in this study (e.g. Strenotrophomonas species within gammaproteobacteria) can attack polymers and induce micron-length tears leading to non-conformal polymer coatings, while the graphene coating was found to be electrochemically inert, extremely conformal, and resistant to microbial attack. The nano-scale graphene coatings also cause minimal changes to the underlying surface topology.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENGINEERING EDUCATION | Award Amount: 131.46K | Year: 2016

The emergent field of engineering education research is a necessary lever to make systemic and sustainable changes in the way we educate and develop engineers to meet current and future national priorities and global challenges. There is a great deal of variation in the strength of the social infrastructure used by engineering education researchers to collaborate and build research projects of sufficient depth and diversity for true systemic change. In this project, relative social infrastructure strength is grouped as follows: those researchers who are connected to a department of engineering education; those who are connected to a center or other non-department, formalized group on their campus; and those who have neither connection. Any combination of access types may be present on a single campus. The purpose of this project is to discover and implement evidence-based social infrastructure elements that meet the needs of the third group while maintaining the integrity of the department- and center-based infrastructure. These researchers are often located in their universities in capacities that are highly intertwined with the practice of engineering education; finding better ways to network and support them creates stronger ties between research and practice, facilitating systemic and lasting change.

Using the social movement organizing methodology of relational meetings, the investigators will conduct a series of interviews with engineering education researchers who are connected with centers or departments those who are not, and their practitioner colleagues to identify areas of common concern, resources each can contribute to change agent networks, and opportunities for strategic intervention around which the engineering education change movement can build power. Through two phases of the research root cause analysis will be applied to the problems of faculty reward structures and diversity in engineering; working at the level of structural economic forces in higher education in the first case, and racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of structural inequality in the second case, will guide strategies and interventions to produce lasting, significant change and address problems at their source. This approach will further the research on change in engineering education by understanding faculty behavior as grounded not only in personal motivation and institutional reward structures but also in current economic and policy frameworks for higher education. The results of this project will identify mechanisms to strengthen engineering education networks. Of particular importance are those researchers currently working in the field who are not strongly connected to those networks. Broad-based and widespread change will occur through modifications to communities infrastructure and leadership development that support both the engineering education researchers and practitioners.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: POP & COMMUNITY ECOL PROG | Award Amount: 110.00K | Year: 2016

Understanding how individuals move in space, what habitats they prefer, and how the environmental features channel or resist movement is central to landscape ecology and wildlife management. Dramatic improvements in the acquisition, resolution, and extent of two relevant types of data have recently occurred: remotely sensed environmental data and high-resolution animal location (telemetry) data. These data drive a statistical industry serving wildlife management agencies, private companies, and academia. Improvements in tracking technology are likely to cause a revolution in movement ecology analogous to the impact of gene sequencing on molecular genetics. This project synthesizes theoretical advances (statistical techniques for estimating movement probability between sites and how environmental resources are selected), existing results (mathematical techniques for rapidly predicting the envelope of future animal positions using mechanistic assumptions) and untapped data (remotely sensed habitat maps and high resolution individual telemetry) to rigorously characterize how landscape features condition population movement and habitat choice. The research will encompass case studies investigating the movement of mule deer and elk in Utah, harbor seals off southeastern Alaska, and Canada lynx, which have recently been reintroduced in Colorado and are dispersing throughout the Rocky Mountains. Research students will be cross-trained in mathematics, statistics, and movement ecology; undergraduates will be included in the research process by developing individual-based models to test estimation technologies. A teaching lab in mathematical biology, illustrating movement models using real biological systems, will also be developed and distributed.

Statistical point process models provide well-understood statistical approaches for obtaining inference from individual-based telemetry data, with resource selection functions describing individual habitat preferences and availability functions describing dispersal probability between locations. However, point process models require numerical quadrature for proper normalization, making them slow for large data sets. Classical availability functions are not constructed to handle major issues like movement constraints, autocorrelation, and landscape resistance, affecting quality of resource selection inference and computational feasibility. However, a parallel and untapped literature of partial differential equations predicts dispersal likelihood based on mechanistic assumptions about individual movement. Ecological diffusion and ecological telegraphers equations provide natural scalings from Lagrangian to Eulerian perspectives. They are fully mechanistic and allow for population-level dynamics, but are not inherently statistical nor automatically suited to handling individual-based telemetry data. This project will reconcile point process modeling with mechanistic dispersal equations to arrive at a unified method for analyzing telemetry data. Homogenization techniques, which are well-accepted in physical sciences but not often applied in mathematical biology or statistics, will be used to speed up solutions in heterogeneous environments. Coupled point process models and homogenized partial differential equations will accelerate model fitting, provide resource selection inference and naturally accommodate environmental heterogeneity and barriers/constraints to movement. The ecological movement equations will be homogenized and simplified using asymptotic approximations suitable for point process models, addressing correlation among position observations and velocity constraints. Rapid numerical techniques for movement models will be developed to allow facile representation of movement barriers (e.g., shorelines, major rivers or roads) as boundary conditions. To develop efficient computational techniques for resource selection functions and landscape resistance inference, the homogenized ecological movement equations will be dovetailed with point process models in a hierarchical framework. The integrated approach will be applied to telemetry data from foraging ungulates in Utah, harbor seals in the Gulf of Alaska, and Canada lynx in Colorado.

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