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5 SDSU engineering students earn national scholarship

Tau Beta Pi Scholarship winners
Tau Beta Pi scholarship winners gather with their adviser in the fiberoptics lab on the South Dakota State University campus Sept. 7. Pictured, from left, are adviser Steve Hietpas, Ryan Albrecht, Fairfax, Minnesota; Roberto Valencia, Elkton; Hamza Tasneem, Saudi Arabia; and Matthew Ackerman, Spearfish. Not pictured is Garret Huumala, Watertown. The senior engineering students received $2,000 awards.

Three electrical engineering students and two mechanical engineering students at South Dakota State University have been selected for a $2,000 scholarship by Tau Beta Pi, the world’s largest engineering society, for the 2021-22 academic year.

The recipients, all seniors, are: Matthew Ackerman, electrical engineering, Whitewood; Ryan Albrecht, mechanical engineering, Fairfax, Minnesota; Garret Huumala, mechanical, Hayti; Hamza Tasneem, electrical, Abha, Saudi Arabia; and Roberto Penaloza Valencia, electrical, Elkton.

Tau Beta Pi Scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis of high scholarship, campus leadership and service and promise of future contributions to the engineering profession. 

Steve Hietpas, a professor in the electrical engineering and computer science department, said, “It is an honor and pleasure to serve this last year as faculty adviser to our College of Engineering Tau Beta Pi (Beta Chapter) Honor Society. 

“Rich Reid, though having retired the previous summer, remained active and mentored me in this new position. Rich handed over a well-organized student organization and having five TBP scholarship recipients from our college is a testimony not only to our excellent students but also Rich’s impact on this student organization for the last many years.”


• Ackerman, a 2018 graduate of Spearfish High School, is the son of Todd and Rachel Ackerman of Whitewood. The president of the SDSU chapter of Tau Beta Pi, Ackerman is a dean’s list student with a 3.962 GPA.

• Albrecht, a 2018 graduate of GFW High School in Winthrop, Minn., is the son of Randy and Darla Albrecht of Fairfax. SDSU activities include the Ultimate Frisbee Club (president), Tau Beta Pi (secretary), Pi Tau Sigma, Robotics Club, the SDSU Pep Band, Aerospace Club, Running Club and the Nordic Ski Club.

Carrying a 3.981 GPA, Albrecht plans to return to Minnesota to work in a small manufacturing facility after his May 2022 graduation.

• Huumala, a 2018 graduate of Watertown High School, is the son of Dean and Susan Huumala of Hayti. At SDSU, he has been involved in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Baja vehicle competition, the IAM3D design challenge, Pi Tau Sigma and Tau Beta Pi.

A Briggs Scholar and a dean’s list student, Huumala carries a 4.0 GPA. After his December graduation, he plans a career as a design engineer.

• Tasneem, a 2018 graduate of Curtin University in Malaysia, is the son of Muhammad Tasneem and Sajida Nasreen of Abha. His varied experiences at SDSU include working as a teaching assistant in the philosophy department, serving as vice president of the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College Student Organization and participating in SDSU Robotics Club.

The vice president of Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu honor societies, Tasneem is completing his independent Fishback Honors College study on home energy management systems. Carrying a 3.82 GPA, after his May 2022 graduation, Tasneem plans to work in the power industry with Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City. Goals also include earning a master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering.

• Valencia, a 2018 graduate of Elkton High School, is the son of Marcela Valencia and Gabriel Mejia of Elkton. At SDSU, he has been involved in Sustainability Club (president), Jacks Jiu Jitsu, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Honor Society (treasurer) and the Pius XII Newman Center.

A community assistant in 2020-2022, Valencia also is a recipient of the Center for Power System Studies Scholarship. Carrying a 4.0 GPA, following his May 2022 graduation, he plans to move to Austin, Texas, to work on renewable energy and energy storage consulting projects.