BHSU Honors Students defend capstone research projects: From outdoor play to sustainability of South African mines

Author: BHSU Communications/Wednesday, April 25, 2018/Categories: Events, Students, College of Business and Natural Sciences, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, Community, Faculty, 2018

Ten Black Hills State University Honors students will defend their Capstone Projects this spring semester. As a final opportunity to direct their own research, Honors Students complete and defend a final project under the mentorship of their capstone committee composed of esteemed BHSU faculty.
Capstone defenses will be Tuesday, April 24; Wednesday, April 25; Monday, April 30; and Tuesday, May 1 from 3-5 p.m. in the Joy Center. All are welcome to attend the presentations.
Honors Capstone Projects focus on research and community outreach and highlight the academic achievement of dedicated students in all areas of study, including science, business, literature, political science, marketing, and community outreach.
“The Capstone Project is the culmination of the University Honors Program, an original, intensive research project that encourages the student to delve more deeply into his or her research field,” explains Kelly Kirk, assistant director of the University Honors Program. “It provides a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor and develop a final product that can be utilized beyond graduation. This year's capstones represent the diverse array of research being conducted at BHSU, and we are incredibly proud of what these Honors Scholars have accomplished.”
Alexandra Hancock, senior corporate communications and graphic design student from
Spearfish, focused her capstone research on the dwindling amount of time today’s youth spend exploring and playing outdoors. She coupled this research with community outreach programming.
“I looked at ways to increase the amount of time that children in Midwest towns of fewer than 15,000 people spend outside,” explains Hancock. “This is an issue I’ve very passionate about. It is something that is very tangible. My question was: knowing the declining amount of time kids are spending outdoors, how do I, within the time frame of this capstone, create and implement a solution?”
Thomas Trimble, senior chemistry and biology student from Spearfish, used his capstone project to study the sustainability of South African palladium mines. Palladium and platinum, materials used in vehicles to reduce pollution, are South Africa’s main export and the country is one of the sole exporters in the world.
“While reducing pollution seems like a sustainable thing to do, once you start studying how these materials are mined, it starts looking less and less sustainable,” explains Trimble. “I’m using five axioms of sustainability to go through the platinum and palladium trade as a whole to outline how sustainable it really is.”
Students are excited to share their research with a public audience.
“These projects are long, ongoing things that only a limited number of people are seeing up close,” says Hancock. “I’m excited for the project to come to fruition and be able to share what I’ve been doing with others.”
“Where the materials we use daily come from, where they end up, and where we fit into the process is something I think about often,” Trimble says. “I’m excited to share that holistic perspective with others.”
The schedule for spring 2018 Capstone Defense presenters and titles is listed below. All presentations will be held in the Joy Center from 3-5 p.m.
Tuesday, April 24:
  • Carissa Hauck, business administration major from Belle Fourche, “Why Black Hills State University Domestic Students Choose Not to Study Abroad”
  • Madison Jilek, physical science and chemistry major from Spearfish, “Utilizing Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy to Detect Trace Impurities for Rare Event Search Detectors”
Wednesday, April 25:
  • Kayti Parish, elementary education and special education major from Gillette, Wyo., “Purposeful Movement, its Relationship to Kinesthetic Learning, Ways in which it has Already Been Incorporated into the Classroom, and the Full Body Science Project”
  • Khazayma Khan, political science major from Spearfish, “A Revival of Justice: An End to Life Without Parole Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Crimes”
  • Alexandra Hancock, corporate communications and graphic design major from Spearfish, “Let Them Play: Increasing Time Children Spend Outdoors in Midwest Towns of Fewer Than 15,000 People”
Monday, April 30:
  • Courtney Dahlgren, biology major from Timber Lake, “Photoredox Coupling of an Activated Aldehyde and Various Trifluoromethylation Reagents”
  • Thomas Trimble, chemistry and biology major from Spearfish - “Platinum Group Elements: A Sustainability Paradox”
  • Bobby Russell, English education major from Bellevue, Neb., “Teaching a Work of Literature through Its Historical Development: A Unit Plan for William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Its Sources”
Tuesday, May 1:
  • Abigail Burnett, business administration major from Spearfish, “Business Plan for Galusha Solar”
  • Dakota Becher, English major from Spearfish, "The Pen(is) Mightier than Sealed Lips: An Analysis of Rape Culture Within Young Adult Literature"
Dedicated to achievement, leadership, and community, the BHSU University Honors Program seeks to enrich its students' university experiences. The program is designed to provide the university’s top students with the support and individualized instruction they need to pursue their academic and professional goals. The program adds tremendous value to a Black Hills State University education, including more academic resources and opportunities, individualized instruction and faculty mentorship, and a dynamic academic and social network.
For more information, contact Kelly Kirk, assistant director of the University Honors Program and instructor of history, at 605-642-6935 or email


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