STEAM Cafe: The Hillard Brothers Flying Machine

The Hillard Brothers Flying Machine

John Hillard & Phillip Hillard

Before they were old enough to even think about enrolling at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Rapid City brothers Phillip and John Hillard filled their bedrooms and family garage with hundreds of airplanes and other types of remote-controlled vehicles they’d built from scratch. Now mechanical engineering students at Mines, the brothers have built a unique electric paramotor, an energy-saving alternative to the gas-powered paramotor they purchased several years ago. Mines supported the brothers with laboratory space, tools and technical advice from both the mechanical and electrical engineering departments. Their paramotor was built at a third of the price offered by the biggest competitor, and the Hillards are now working with the university’s entrepreneurs-in-residence program to market their machine. Eventually, they plan to start their own aviation company, building and designing ultralight aircrafts. Innovators and adventurers at heart, “we’re preparing to launch a pretty crazy future. We’ve got some pretty crazy goals,” John says. Come learn more about their venture and how they took inspiration from their Navy helicopter pilot father, David Hillard, embarked on their electric paramotor, and now look to bring this small sector of aviation into the modern age.


STEAM Café, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, is held at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month, at Hay Camp Brewing Company.  

A food truck will be available at each STEAM Café where patrons can purchase dinner, and handcrafted beer will be available for purchase from Hay Camp.



525 University Loop
Rapid City, SD 57701


Subscribe to the Ascent Innovation newsletter below. Updates, news, and events directly to your inbox!