The Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering faculty at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) has developed a unique undergraduate program that integrates research, extracurricular activities, and outreach experiences. A common thread throughout the program is an introduction to the artistic and historical background of metallurgical engineering. These activities use kinesthetic learning to promote student learning of metallurgical engineering, aspects often not traditionally included in engineering curricula. These programs are similar to those envisioned by the National Academy of Engineering in response to the changing needs of engineering. These are described in two visionary books published by the National Research Council.
A major focus of the program integrates blacksmithing activities with curricular, extracurricular, and outreach activities. All SDSM&T students are invited to a weekly blacksmithing activity called Hammer-in. Blacksmithing-related laboratories were added to the curriculum. Additionally, students developed a portable blacksmithing laboratory with faculty supervision. The laboratory has been taken to K-12 schools, including Native American schools on reservations, to reach out to regional students, thereby promoting interest in STEM careers. The success of these activities led to their incorporation into a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) at SDSM&T called Back to the Future that focuses on understanding new technologies through historical antecedents. The SDSM&T students who participated in this REU used this experience as part of their junior/senior design courses. This program has increased enrollment in the department and has led to better learning outcomes for the students.