South Dakota Mines Leverages Advanced Mining Technologies to National Science Foundation Engines Grant

This Trolley Assist Haul Truck system is one example of technologies used in the mining industry that will facilitate the transition to autonomous battery electric vehicles. South Dakota Mines is leading advances in this kind of technology alongside industry partners within the university’s Mining Hub. This effort is furthered by the new NSF Engines program.


South Dakota Mines is partnering with five regional universities thanks to a $1 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program.


Mines is among more than 44 teams nationwide to receive one of the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards, which aims to help partners collaborate to create economic, societal and technological opportunities for their regions. The regional collaboration includes Mines, the University of North Dakota, the Tribal Nations Research Group, Montana State University and MiTech and Boise State University. The project brings together leaders in autonomous systems in these states.


The Department of Mining Engineering and Management at Mines brings an expertise in cutting edge mining technology to the project. South Dakota Mines is also home to the Mining Hub, which includes diverse partners to work in convergent research areas that include technology development and implementation, digitalization, human factors, and many other areas to support sustainable recovery of the Earth’s resources, to ensure a stable national supply of materials, and to support the nation’s needs — including critical minerals vital to the transition to a new greener economy.


Alongside regional institutional partners, the University of North Dakota (UND) is leading the effort to build a framework (the “engine”) that catalyzes autonomous system development and fielding, enabling the accelerated realization of economic and humanitarian benefits from autonomous systems technology across a wide range of use cases.


The regional NSF grant also focuses on driving workforce development initiatives to cultivate needed skills, including engaging all stakeholders and expanding participation of underrepresented groups — especially from Native populations that are critical stakeholders across the region.


“This is the kind of game-changing collaboration that elevates the high-tech economy in the entire region,” says Mines President Jim Rankin. “We are proud to play a role in the exciting future this type of technological development can bring to our world.”


The mining industry boasts the most autonomous miles traveled in any industry, leading all industries in use of autonomous equipment. Emerging mining technologies are on pace to transcend other industries including agriculture, construction, automotive and other autonomous vehicle applications.


“The exciting part of this opportunity is that it is bringing together experts from a variety of fields that will combine their collective knowledge to ensure the stakeholders realize the maximum benefit from existing and emerging autonomous technologies,” says Robert Hall, Ph.D., a professor and head of the Department of Mining Engineering and Management at South Dakota Mines.


“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF's vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation."


Alongside Mines, UND will focus on uncrewed aircraft, transportation and rural health initiatives. The other regional partners in the grant, as well as their focus areas, are: Tribal Nations Research Group (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), data protection, mining, management, and tribal partner outreach; Montana State University, smart optical sensors; Montana State University MiTech, technology transition from research to commercialization; and Boise State University, resource management and energy.


Last edited 9/14/2023 8:46:09 PM

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