Mines News

Release Date Monday, September 16, 2019

STEAM Café Fall Topics: from Mongolia to Esports to Life After Death

Scott Kenner, head of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, kicked off the fall 2019 STEAM Cafe series with "Mongolia: The People, Mountains and Rivers." 


RAPID CITY, SD (Sept. 13, 2019) – Topics for the fall STEAM Café series range from a researcher’s experiences in Mongolia to the ecological impacts of animal decomposition to the development of the microscope. STEAM Café, a series of free informal talks by South Dakota School of Mines & Technology faculty, staff and visiting experts, is a partnership between the university, South Dakota Public Broadcasting and Hay Camp Brewing Company.

An acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, STEAM Café is held at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month, at Hay Camp. A food truck will be available at each STEAM Café for meal purchase, and handcrafted beer will be available for purchase from Hay Camp.  

“STEAM Café is a great opportunity for community members to engage with Mines staff and faculty to talk about things happening in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” said Jim Rankin, president of SD Mines. “I would invite everyone to check it out. They won’t be disappointed.”  

Sept. 17, 6 p.m.

Mongolia: The People, Mountains and Rivers 

Scott Kenner, head of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Kenner, Fulbright Scholar to Mongolia (2012-13), will present on his experiences with the people, mountains and rivers of Mongolia. His research on rivers in Mongolia has continued over the past six years with a focus on hydrologic and physical characterization of rivers for environmental low flows and hydro-geomorphological characterization, comparing rivers of temperate steppe ecoregions in the US and Mongolia. His work has included river basins in the internal west drainage, the central arctic river basins and the eastern river basins of Mongolia. The countryside of Mongolia has extensive diversity ranging from the arid Gobi regions to the glacial Khangai Mountains. His research has allowed him to interact with the Mongolian people, from the urbanized Ulaan Baatar in the Capitol City to the eagle hunters of western Mongolia.

Oct. 15, 6 p.m.

Life After Death: Ecological Impacts of Animal Decomposition

Sarah Keenan, assistant professor in the SD Mines Department of Geology & Geological Engineering

In life, animals provide critical ecosystem services and live within complex trophic networks, transporting nutrients to/from other organisms. After death, animals continue to play an essential role in ecological processes by releasing material held within soft tissues back to the environment through decomposition. From a paleontological perspective, decomposition represents the first step in forming our fossil record, yet we know surprisingly little about the timing, rates and ecological impacts of decay. Following an animal’s death, tissues begin to decompose, releasing fluids, stimulating scavenger activity and forming a “nutrient hotspot.” The longevity of these hotspots in environments, the consequences of hotspots on cycling of elements like carbon and nitrogen, and the impacts on soil microbial communities are largely unknown. This talk will explore recent research into vertebrate decomposition and highlight the remaining unknowns.

Nov. 19, 6 p.m. 

Through the Lens: Tools for Extending Our Vision and Knowledge

Melissa Santala, assistant professor of materials science at Oregon State University in Corvallis

Since their invention around 1600, optical microscopes have been used to investigate objects too small to be seen with the unaided eye. In the 20th century, the development of the electron microscope has allowed us to image materials at atomic resolution. Melissa Santala will draw upon selected historical texts and her experience as a materials scientist and microscopist to discuss the power and pitfalls of using these tools for scientific purposes. She will also consider the “A” in “STEAM” and discuss the use of microscopy to create images of aesthetic and artistic value.

Dec. 17

The Origin of South Dakota Esports – SD Mines: Past, Present and Future

Wyatt Engel, Hardrocker Athletics Esports Coordinator

Esports is one of the fastest growing entertainment industries in the world and has somehow found roots in an unlikely place: South Dakota. This talk will look at the development of internet culture and video games over the last 10 years, the origin of esports in South Dakota, and the biggest playmakers who pushed the esports industry to blossom. Discussion will highlight sustainability and growth in the industry, from entertainment to software engineering jobs. Attendees will be challenged to open their minds to a new generation of competition and embrace what is to come.

Hay Camp Brewing Company is located at 601 Kansas City Street in Rapid City


About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,418 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $68,685. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram and Snapchat.

Contact: Lynn Taylor Rick, (605) 394-2554, Lynn.TaylorRick@sdsmt.edu

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