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The Mechanical Engineering Department at South Dakota Mines uses high-quality, project-based learning to prepare students for exciting and successful careers in mechanical engineering. This continues a tradition of excellence established by founding department head Elden “E.R.” Stensaas and is why the South Dakota Mines Mechanical Engineering is the largest engineering department in the state of South Dakota!

The rapid pace of progress in technology can make it challenging to deliver a cutting-edge mechanical engineering education. It is vital the department has the necessary resources to continue providing premier education to future generations of South Dakota Mines mechanical engineers. 

The Mechanical Engineering department has been challenged by the family of Elden Stensaas to boost the current balance ($250,000) of the E.R. Stensaas Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Endowment fund by $1 million, and they have pledged to match up to $500,000 raised toward that goal! A $1,250,000 Stensaas Laboratory Endowment will ensure South Dakota Mines’ leadership in mechanical engineering. Consistent funding provided by the earnings of the endowment will enable the department to meet industry demands and to provide the high-quality education for which South Dakota Mines is known.

Help us honor the tradition of excellence Elden Stensaas began by making a gift to the Stensaas Laboratory Endowment today. 

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Dr. Pierre Larochelle is the Department Head of Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota Mines. The Stensaas Lab Endowment supports the hands-on educational experience for which Mines is known.  In this video, Dr. Larochelle explains how a stronger  endowment will support planned growth in robotics, mechatronics, lasers, energy storage, and engines.




Dr. Duane Abata is a senior member of the Mechanical Engineering Department at South Dakota Mines.  In this video, he explains the importance of hands-on learning when it comes to the internal combustion engine. He also shares why more hands-on experiences will enhance the student experience here at Mines.




Dr. Prasoon Diwakar leads the Laser Plasma Lab in the ME Department at Mines.  Thanks to the Stensaas Lab Endowment, he was able to purchase two cold plasma lasers to allow more students to have hands-on experiences in the lab. Mines student Taylor Bright is expanding his research on using cold plasma to target cancer cells to treating wounds on Type II Diabetes patients, applying engineering concepts to biology and health areas.




Over the years, Aaron Lalley and Chuck Schilling have seen tremendous changes to the labs in the ME department.  From the first saw in the machine shop to the first CNC machines, they understand the importance of project-based learning on industrial equipment. They both agree however, that the greatest strength of the department are our smart, curious, and tenacious Mines students!




Elden Stensaas began his 36-year career at South Dakota Mines in 1938 teaching mechanical engineering classes at a time when the campus was still heated by steam engine. After serving as a civilian instructor in the Air Force Tech Training Program during World War II, Stensaas became the first Professor and Head of the newly formed Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1946, where he was provided no equipment and worked in a former government surplus barracks. Having once taught every class in the department during a single semester, Stensaas eventually grew the Mechanical Engineering Department into the largest on campus, earning the admiration of students and faculty for his openness, engagement, and active involvement in activities such as the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.