The South Dakota Space Grant Consortium (SDSGC) was established in 1991 under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. The program consists of 52 state-based, university-led Space Grant Consortia in each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology serves as the home institution for the SDSGC. The statewide network includes 19 affiliate organizations from public, private, and tribal universities; industry; museums; informal science centers; and federal government.
The vision of the SDSGC is to expand opportunities for all South Dakotans through education, research, and public service in the fields of aerospace and earth, and space sciences. As the link between NASA and the citizens of South Dakota, SDSGC’s mission is to instill the spirit of exploration and discovery in students and educators—and in the general public—with a special focus on the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that are essential for the development of the U.S. workforce.
The consortium administers a fellowship and scholarship stipend program (approximately $150,000 in student awards every year) with the goal of offering educational and research opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds who are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics related (STEM) fields that align with NASA‘s mission and those of the consortium‘s membership. It also provides summer fellowships through NASA Centers, industry, and the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center to help enhance interactions among member institutions and strengthen research capabilities related to aerospace, earth science, and remote sensing. Recent student
research sponsored at the School of Mines includes robotics, wireless energy transfer, electrostatic control of mirror membranes, composite materials for lunar and space structures, flexible electronics, lithium-ion battery performance and durability, alloying ultra-pure electroformed copper for
physics research at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) at Homestake, microbiology and dark matter experiments at SURF, biocatalysts for use in biofuel production, health science in microgravity, atmospheric investigations, and a number of undergraduate senior design projects.
The consortium has assisted in the development of a Geographic Information Systems laboratory on campus. Other consortium programs include support for undergraduate and graduate research projects and faculty member travel to NASA Centers or additional destinations that may aid in developing enhanced research capabilities. SDSGC also maintains a K-12 informal education function to help foster wider use of earth science and aerospace-related materials in precollege educational programs throughout the state, and to improve education in the areas of STEM. Precollege outreach activities include sponsorship of South Dakota Space Days, annual South Dakota FIRST LEGO® League Robotics Tournament, precollege teacher workshops and professional development grants, visiting scientist programs in schools, six annual middle and high school-level Women in Science conferences, and Aviation Careers Exploration Academy and other STEM summer youth camps.
The South Dakota NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NASA EPSCoR) is a separately funded component of the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium that focuses solely on research. The goals of the South Dakota NASA EPSCoR program are to expand research capacity in science and engineering fields critical to NASA’s future workforce and to promote science and technology-based economic development. Since 2007, this program has provided $7 million in NASA funding to South Dakota. Recent research projects include high performance lithium-ion battery research for space applications, advanced composites and flexible electronics for space and aerospace applications, satellite-based environmental monitoring, improved thermal management systems, photovoltaic devices for space power generation, application of nanotechnology for advanced sensor systems, and algal-based biofuel production. Additional seed grants are made available to South Dakota researchers for projects that are aligned with NASA mission directorates and state research priorities such as South Dakota Research Centers, new Ph.D. programs, USGS EROS, and the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) at Homestake.