Mines News

Release Date Thursday, August 20, 2020

For the Love of Dirt – Motocross at Mines

South Dakota Mines students enjoy recreational opportunities such as motocross and trail riding while studying mechanical engineering and related subjects.

Here is a cocktail for success in college: combine adrenaline, friends and fun with gorgeous remote trail systems and groomed dirt tracks. Balance it out with the hard work and problem solving taught in engineering courses at South Dakota Mines

The university has a history of graduating engineers and scientists who nurture and develop a lifelong love of motocross and off-road sports while in school. Many of these engineers go on to work in the off-road vehicle industry.   

Mines students enjoy a 96% placement rate upon graduation. This is due in part to the university’s hands-on curriculum that is combined with opportunities for leadership development on real-world engineering teams available through the Center of Excellence for Advanced Multidisciplinary Projects (CAMP).  

Robb Meineke finished his mechanical engineering degree at Mines in 2011. He grew up racing motocross and trail riding in the Black Hills. “My interest in motorcycles and my love for working on them is definitely the reason I decided to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering,” says Meineke. “As a high school student, I wanted to work for one of the major dirt bike companies which triggered my interest in mechanical engineering.” Meineke’s senior design project at South Dakota Mines, which focused on optimizing motorcycle suspension performance, helped land him an early career in the off-road manufacturing industry. Today, he is the director of valve services for the company Applied Control. 

“Mines gave me an opportunity to develop my skills while still enjoying my passion for motorcycles. I truly believe that the knowledge I gained during my time there, combined with racing motocross, is the reason for my success today in my personal and professional life,” says Meineke. 

Walter Coombe finished his mechanical engineering degree at South Dakota Mines in 2019 and is now employed by Garmin in Kansas City. He was introduced to motocross by a couple of friends from CAMP’s Baja SAE team. “They had a couple extra bikes they would let me ride occasionally. After my initial rides, they would send me classified ads for dirt bikes until I finally bought one.” 

Success in an engineering and science university requires a balance of hard work and fun. For Coombe, trail riding in the Black Hills provided a rejuvenating experience that helped him succeed in his coursework. “I could spend all day doing schoolwork, but I think it’s important, especially at Mines, to find something outside of homework to take your mind off all the craziness that’s going on. You can get out of town in 15 minutes to a decent place to ride. You can mess around for maybe an hour and still get back in time to get some work done in the same day,” says Coombe. He adds that working on his dirt bike improved his studies in mechanical engineering. “Dirt bikes are an absolute mechanical marvel for sure, which also helps out with design ideas.”

Landon Wilhite grew up in a motocross family in Kansas. “My dad was a racer his entire life. They had me on a 50cc minibike by the time I was four or five. I started racing in 2007 and raced every summer until 2013. I came to South Dakota Mines in 2014 and took a year off from riding and hated every minute of it. I decided to bring the bike up the next year and have been riding in South Dakota ever since.” Wilhite continued to race and ride while in college. He finished his masters in engineering management at South Dakota Mines in 2018. Today he is employed at LafargeHolcim in Boston. 

Wilhite adds that there are motocross tracks in the area for local riders. The Jackpine Gypsies in Sturgis run the closest motocross track to campus. “It’s definitely a great track to hit. The club is in the midst of developing a new track to the American Motocross Association standard, so it should be interesting to see what the very near future holds for motocross in the area.”

Besides tracks, those who love off-road sports will find no shortage of fun in the Black Hills area. The Badlands landscape in the huge Farmingdale riding area offers a variety of terrains and open spaces and the Black Hills offers 3,600 miles of single track and double track designated off-road trails. “Definitely I recommend motocross. It’s for anyone who is interested in sending it,” Wilhite says. 



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 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. 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: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu