Tau Beta Pi

From Academic Kids

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The bent at Iowa Alpha (Iowa State University)

Tau Beta Pi (ΤΒΠ or TBP) is the national engineering honor society in the United States and the second oldest collegiate honor society in the US. It honors students who have shown a history of academic achievement as well as a commitment to personal and professional integrity.



When Phi Beta Kappa sought to restrict its membership to liberal arts in the late 19th century, Edward H. Williams Jr., a member of Phi Beta Kappa and head of the mining department at Lehigh University, formulated the idea of an honor society for those studying technical subjects. Irving Andrew Heikes, the valedictorian of his class at Lehigh was inducted as the first student member of Tau Beta Pi, at the Pennsylvania Alpha chapter on June 15, 1885.

In 1892, a second chapter was established at Michigan State University. Since then it has grown to over 239 active student chapters across the United States and Puerto Rico. Tau Beta Pi was a founding member of the Association of College Honor Societies. The national headquarters of Tau Beta Pi are currently located in Knoxville, Tennessee on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

In 1974, the Sigma Tau fraternity merged with Tau Beta Pi. Sigma Tau was an honor society for engineering much like Tau Beta Pi, except it initiated female engineers as well as male engineers, whereas Tau Beta Pi's membership was restricted to men only (although TBP did award a women's badge to exceptional female engineers). With the merger, Tau Beta Pi began offering full membership to females.


The colors of Tau Beta Pi are seal brown and white, which are the school colors of Lehigh. The official badge is a watch key in the shape of the bent of a trestle (see picture). The trestle is the load-bearing part of the bridge, representing Tau Beta Pi's commitment to public service. Originally the keys could be used to wind watches, but modern keys cannot, mainly because of the current lack of watches that require keys to wind.


As of March 2005, there are 239 active chapters. Each chapter is assigned a chapter name based on the state and order of initiation into the society. The order is designated by a greek letter. For example, the first three chapters of Pennsylvania are:

California is the only state, thus far, to exceed 24 chapters. The 26th chapter is named "CA ΑΒ".

See List of Tau Beta Pi chapters for a complete list.

Inter-Chapter Events

The different chapters of Tau Beta Pi hold many events throughout the year. In addition to official events such as National Convention and District Conferences, many chapters organize events among themselves. For example, University of California, Berkeley (CA Alpha) and Stanford University (CA Gamma), compete in a football game every year. Called the "Little Big Game," Tau Bates enjoy a friendly rivalry every November right before the Big Game between the football teams of the two universities.

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Members initiated as undergraduate students must be junior-level (3rd year) students in the upper eighth of their engineering class, in terms of grades, or in the upper fifth of their class if they are senior-level (4th year). Graduate students can join, as well as others who have had a large impact on engineering and society through engineering.

Notable members

Tau Beta Pi's membership includes some famous figures in engineering and technology, including:

Seven astronauts who died on Apollo 1, Space Shuttle Challenger, and Space Shuttle Columbia (17 total) were also members of Tau Beta Pi. In their honor a fellowship has been given out five times (1986, 1987, 1997, 1998, 2004). These astronauts and their chapters are:

See also

External links


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