News Releases

Mines engineering students to help enhance Ellsworth’s combat readiness
Release Date Thursday, January 30, 2014


RAPID CITY, S.D. (Jan. 30, 2014) – A new initiative between the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and Ellsworth Air Force Base will allow engineering students to collaborate with the 28th Bomb Wing on mutually beneficial projects aimed at enhancing combat readiness.

School of Mines Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Duane Hrncir and Col. Kevin B. Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander, signed the agreement Thursday afternoon. The goal of the work by Mines students in the Department of Industrial Engineering is to ultimately improve design, usage and efficiency of Ellsworth missions.

“Mines is well-known for our hands-on, real world approach to teaching engineering. Almost all of our students are required to do senior projects to earn their degree. We look forward to having more of our students solve problems for Ellsworth through this agreement. This partnership with the base reflects our strengthening relationship intended to solve problems, reduce costs and increase combat readiness for the Air Force,” said Mines President Heather Wilson, herself a 1982 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and former Air Force officer.

Thursday afternoon’s signing was part of a historic partnership agreement between Ellsworth and several other area organizations, including the cities of Box Elder and Rapid City. Additional projects from other partnerships being considered consist of medical, educational and workforce cross-training as well as sharing youth and adult recreational programs. This new initiative follows the Community Partnership Initiative passed by Congress with the intent of leveraging military installation and local community capabilities and resources to reduce costs in support of the Air Force mission.

“The core principle behind our public-private partnerships initiative at Ellsworth is to find areas that benefit both parties and enhance our combat readiness, either directly or indirectly. The initiative we are starting with the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron is an excellent example. We will benefit by being able to leverage their expertise for projects we need to accomplish across the base, while the Mines students will gain valuable real world experience,” said Kennedy.

Mines students will engage in a work-study like program and travel to the base as needed to fulfill requirements for specific projects, which will involve studying and analyzing facilities and processes of the 28th Civil Engineer Installation Management Flight and providing results and recommendations.

Last fall, in a precursor to Thursday’s official agreement, a group of five Mines’ industrial engineering students created a 3D model to transform an outdated B-35aircraft hangar into a recreation facility in a prototype design that would save Ellsworth an estimated $140,000 in lieu of a “proof of concept” study.

“The agreement allows Mines students to serve the community while integrating theoretical and practical considerations into projects,” said Dean Jensen, Ph.D., an industrial engineering associate professor who will serve as the university’s point of contact.

He added that students will benefit from “excellent interaction with and supervision from practicing operations professionals” through a predictable supply of project-based learning opportunities.

The five industrial engineering students who designed the recreation facility prototype for Ellsworth last fall were John Urban, Tyler Vogel, Nick Grimshaw, Mike Dietz and Tyler Witzel. Their lead project contacts at Ellsworth were Kevin Vogel, Real Property Officer, and Chief Master Sgt. James Tigue.


About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is $62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at