Phi Chapter Members, 1929
Phi Chapter, 1929

Our chapter has a long and storied history at Purdue University. Phi Chapter of Theta Tau was founded on April 21, 1928 by a group of mostly electrical engineering students. They were interested in creating a brotherhood on campus that valued, above all else, creating strong fraternal bonds among the engineers of Purdue, and cultivating and maintaining a high standard of professional interest among its members in engineering.

Our chapter has initiated over 1,100 members since it’s installation, many of whom have gone on to great success in engineering, working in almost every field imaginable from NASA aeronautics to business and entrepreneurship. We pride ourselves on our strong, dedicated network of alumni who are continually involved with the chapter and its well-being and provide networking and job opportunities for current brothers. The Alumni Association also funds and picks recipients for the Theta Tau Educational Foundation and Zellers Scholarships, which go to two active members of the chapter and one engineering male at Purdue, respectively.

Although our chapter has always been and always will be all-male, Phi Chapter used to have a Little Sisters program that began around 1968, where women in engineering could become officially become affiliated with the chapter and wear letters, but would not pledge and have limited rights and responsibilities within the house. This program continued into the early 2000’s and has since been phased out due to University mandate.


Our old chapter house
Our old chapter house

Our chapter’s house has been through many phases. Our first house, used very briefly, was located at 321 Vine Street (Current location of Phi Kappa Tau), and was only used for a short period until 1929. The chapter then moved to 128 Wiggins Street (current home of Maclure Co-op), then finally to our current location at 416 North Chauncey Avenue. For nearly 80 years, barring a major 1954 renovation, the brothers lived in the virtually same chapter house, as well as an adjacent home at 422 North Chauncey(affectionately named “The Annex”). A sand volleyball court was placed in between the buildings in 1986. Finally, after a fundraising effort spanning decades, the active chapter and the alumni board raised enough money to demolish our old house, which was succumbing to major structural issues, and build a new house, which was completed in 2003. This house is the current residence for the brothers of Phi chapter and has already seen some of the best of times within its walls, and the house itself is a point of pride for our chapter.






The first Debris entry for the Revived Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, 1984
Debris entry for the Revived Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, 1984

One of Phi Chapter’s most notable contributions to Purdue has been the introduction of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, which was founded by our chapter at Purdue and first held as part of the Purdue Engineer’s Ball in 1949. Contests were held between Theta Tau and Triangle fraternity on campus until The end of the Engineer’s Ball tradition in 1955. In 1983, some brothers found the original traveling trophy from these contests while cleaning, and decided it would be a goal of the fraternity to bring back the contest. After the success of the first competition, the contest continued to grow in size for several years, garnering national media attention and providing an outlet for engineering creativity for students around the country. The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest was hosted by our chapter until 2013 when management changed hands with Rube Goldberg International, who continue the contest until this day.

Since then, Our chapter has been working on our new philanthropic effort called Can Jam. Can Jam is an annual benefit concert hosted by us at Slayter Hill, which features local talent from the Lafayette area. Admission is charged by either a small fee or canned goods, which all goes to benefit The Elmwood Church of Christ‘s food pantry in Lafayette. We hope that in the coming years,  Can Jam will be a large, notable event for not only Greek life but for the Purdue and Lafayette communities as a whole. For more information on Can Jam, please visit our Can Jam page.