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Cal Poly College of Engineering Announces 2017 Outstanding Students
June 05, 2017

Cal Poly College of Engineering announced its 2017 Outstanding Students at the Engineering Project Expo on June 2. The students included the top senior for academic excellence; three graduating seniors honored for service to the college, university and community; and the outstanding volunteer of the year.

Environmental engineering senior Kimberly Pugel from Grass Valley, Calif., was recognized as the college’s top graduating senior for academic excellence. With a 3.91 grade point average, Pugel made the Dean’s List every quarter except winter 2017, when she had fewer units, and she made President’s List, which recognizes undergraduates who have been on the Dean's List at least three quarters of the academic year, three times since she entered Cal Poly in 2013. While a student, Pugel interned at Arcadis coordinating remediation field activities, and served as a project lead for the Global Waste Research Institute winning third place at 2015 Algae Biomass Summit in Washington, D.C., for her research. Active with Engineers Without Borders – Cal Poly, Pugel was chapter vice president and technical project leader for the Thailand team. As chapter vice president for the Real Food Collaborative, Pugel helped bring local organic food to campus. She worked as a primary research assistant on projects sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in March. Pugel is seeking a master’s degree in civil systems engineering and a certificate in engineering for developing countries at the University of Colorado, Boulder

Melisa Esquivias, an industrial engineering major from San Bruno, Calif., was named Outstanding Senior for Contributions to the college. She was on President’s List from 2013 to 2014 and earned Dean’s List honors for eight quarters. Esquivias served as an officer for the Radio Frequency Identification Club working to increase club membership and awareness. As vice president of operations, she managed multiple club projects. In organizing an RFID/Internet of Things Conference, Esquivias provided learning opportunities for students and the local community. She also serves as an Engineering Ambassador, and for two years, volunteered as leader of the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Open House Marketing Team. As a member of the Latina Interest Sorority, Esquivias conducted research and fundraising projects to provide services to the Latinx community. As student coordinator for the Peer Resources in Student Mentoring, she designed and led mentoring programs to facilitate transition of queer students into the Cal Poly campus.

The Outstanding Student for Contributions to the University is Charly Flores, an electrical engineering senior from San Pedro, Calif. Known for his leadership in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Flores is passionate about opening paths to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for underrepresented students. As the society’s vice president of community affairs, Flores planned more than 20 outreach activities, including installing solar panels for low-income families and volunteering at local schools. He currently serves as SHPE president. A parent whose son received a tour of the college from Flores said, “Charly speaking to my son about his experiences as a transfer student truly inspired my son.” Flores has interned as a product support engineer at Rantec Power Systems and at Pacific Gas and Electric. He received a Multicultural Engineering Program Chevron Scholarship because of his leadership and outstanding academic performance.

Materials engineering senior Erika Hansen from San Luis Obispo, Calif., was named the Outstanding Student for Service to the Community for her commitment to help others and make the world a better place. She worked with EPIC, Cal Poly’s engineering summer camp, and was involved with outreach activities for the Materials Engineering Department. As outreach officer for the Alpha Sigma Mu Materials Honor Society, Hansen has organized outreach efforts, such as the MATE lab for the campus chapter of the Society of Women Engineers Building an Engineer Day, and visits to an after-school program at Fairgrove Elementary in Grover Beach, Calif. Hansen served in several leadership positions with Engineers Without Borders – Cal Poly, including project lead for a water distribution system for the Nicaragua team. Hansen also volunteers locally, and has served as a WOW orientation leader. An internship with the TenCate Advanced Composites company helped her expand her knowledge and skills with the manufacturing and testing of composites.

The 2017 Outstanding Student Volunteer of the Year is Dina Alarian, an electrical engineering senior from Folsom, Calif. As president of the Engineering Ambassadors, Alarian has made numerous improvements that benefit the college and this hardworking group of volunteers, who serve at college events. In addition to organizing and leading Ambassador and group officer meetings, she revamped the bylaws, and reworked and edited tour routes and training materials to better reflect the college on tours. She has revamped how to track Ambassadors' duties and reworked its budget to include more social events, and she began a fundraising campaign with industry contacts to provide new opportunities for group. Alarian serves on the search committee for a new College of Engineering dean.

The top undergraduate and graduate students for academic excellence by department included the following:

Outstanding Bachelor's Degree Graduates

Charles Aaron Ward          Aerospace Engineering
Derek Denardo                Aerospace Engineering
Samantha L Smith           Biomedical Engineering
Corina Mary Espelien         Biomedical Engineering
Steven Ellis Ambers          Civil Engineering
Chase Redd Hemming       Civil Engineering
Justina Tran                    Civil Engineering
Matthew T Lindly              Computer Engineering
Matthew A Coats              Computer Engineering
Cody Daniel Rhoads          Computer Science
Andrew Trong Khuong Tran Computer Science
William Cary Tran             Electrical Engineering
Dylan James Kirkby           Electrical Engineering
Kimberly Ellen Pugel          Environmental Engineering
Lauren Ingrid Miller           Environmental Engineering
Kendyl Jaclyn Cohn           General Engineering
Anna Colleen Laird            General Engineering
Jesse Elliot Yap                Industrial Engineering
Fiona Catherine Blackburn   Industrial Engineering
Jared Marshall Olson          Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies
Eric Colin Hill                   Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies
John Francis Brown            Manufacturing Engineering
Joseph A Hanacek             Manufacturing Engineering
Kenneth Blain Ainslie          Materials Engineering
Cory Jacob Hughes             Materials Engineering
Alexander Rodney Nichols     Mechanical Engineering
Christopher Michael Gonzales Mechanical Engineering
Myra Cherise Lukens            Software Engineering
Brittany Ashley Berlanga       Software Engineering

Outstanding Master's Degree Graduates

Reed Danis                      Aerospace Engineering
Matthew Richardson           Aerospace Engineering
Steven Maclean                Aerospace Engineering
Daniel Fugett                   Aerospace Engineering
Tiffany Shen                    Biomedical Engineering
John Gerrity                     Biomedical Engineering
Jennavive Lillie                 Biomedical Engineering
Kristina Bishard                 Biomedical Engineering
Nupur Garg                      Computer Science
Katherine Davis                Computer Science
Ivan Pachev                     Computer Science
Christopher Hunt               Computer Science
Sean Bayley                     Computer Science
Christian Skylar Durst         Computer Science
Brandon Livitski                Computer Science
David Ritter                     Electrical Engineering
Travis Taylor                    Electrical Engineering
Zhaoci Hu                        Engineering Management
Spencer Martinez               Engineering Management
Alisha Bender                   Engineering w/Integrated Technology Management
Austin Lynch                    Engineering w/Integrated Technology Management
Jonathon Chiu                  Engineering w/Integrated Technology Management
Joakim Larsen                  Fire Protection Engineering
Colin White                      Fire Protection Engineering
David Otsu                       Industrial Engineering
Nandan Thor                     Industrial Engineering
Joshua Ledgerwood            Industrial Engineering
Victor Espinosa III              Mechanical Engineering
Ryan Baskett                    Mechanical Engineering
Nick Bonafede                   Mechanical Engineering
Samuel Artho-Bentz            Mechanical Engineering
Michael Schier                   Mechanical Engineering
Connor Sullivan                  Mechanical Engineering
Kevin Carney                     Mechanical Engineering
Ruben Diaz                        Mechanical Engineering

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Photo at top, from left to right: Dina Alarian, Charly Flores, Melisa Esquivias and Erika Hansen. Kimberly Pugel not pictured.

Cal Poly Engineering Shows Its Smarts at Smart Cities Challenge
May 10, 2017

Cal Poly made a strong showing at the Mega Challenge on Smart Cities, held May 9-11 in Phoenix. The school placed second overall, led by industrial engineering graduate student Austin Lynch, who also won the Best Poster Award.

The event, which focuses on the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) to implement smart city solutions, was hosted by the RAIN RFID Alliance and RFID Journal LIVE! and the new IEEE Council on RFID.

Other members of Cal Poly’s multidisciplinary team included Isaac Williams, a manufacturing engineering alumnus; Jonnathan Terry, an electrical engineering graduate student; and Jessica Chao, Steven Johnson and Zachary Ho, all computer engineering seniors.

Industrial and manufacturing engineering Professor Tali Freed, who received an award for her role as vice chair of the conference, was accompanied by a delegation of 15 Cal Poly students who served as session chairs and provided meeting and setup assistance.

“Our students already know a lot about RFID, and many of them are officers of the RFID Club. They often receive internships and job offers as a result of their outstanding work at this annual conference,” said Freed.


Cal Poly Receives CSU-Record $110M Gift from William L. Frost
May 03, 2017

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Demonstrating unprecedented support for the nation’s largest public university system and specifically for undergraduate research, California State University alumni William and Linda Frost have given a CSU-record $110 million to Cal Poly’s College of Science and Mathematics.

The gift is among the largest ever to public higher education in California.

The Frosts’ generosity will transform science and mathematics education at Cal Poly by greatly enhancing the resources for undergraduate research. A new interdisciplinary research center will contain almost 18,000 square feet of science and mathematics facilities. In addition, the Frosts’ donation includes $3.6 million annually to support student scholarships and research stipends, cutting-edge equipment and instrumentation, and expanded hiring of instructors, giving faculty members more time to mentor undergraduate students in research.

“Bill and Linda’s gift will impact the lives of countless Cal Poly students, right now and far into the future,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “The Frosts envision Cal Poly’s College of Science and Mathematics housing one of the top undergraduate academic and research programs in the country. Their willingness to think big is an inspiration to all of us and a model for how Cal Poly will continue to provide the creative thinkers and problem-solvers for today’s complex global workforce.”

In developing a new vision for Cal Poly’s undergraduate science and mathematics academic and research program, Bill Frost worked closely with his longtime friend, College of Science and Mathematics Dean Phil Bailey. While designing the program, they concentrated on how to create the most positive and lasting impact on students. By enhancing undergraduate research experiences, the program will enrich students’ Cal Poly experience and make them top prospects for graduate schools and professional careers.

“I see this as an investment in the education and future successes of our science and mathematics students,” said Bill Frost. “I want this funding to be used to further enhance the Learn by Doing experiences that define Cal Poly and to provide students with research opportunities that will result in their presenting at regional, national and even international professional conferences and co-authoring publications with their faculty mentors in peer-reviewed journals.”

The Frosts are both CSU alumni. Bill Frost graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in biochemistry, and Linda Frost earned a degree in biology from San Jose State University.

The impact of the Frosts’ gift will reach beyond Cal Poly’s campus, said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White.

“Bill and Linda’s inspirational gift sets an example for other current and potential donors,” White said. “It highlights the crucial role private support plays in helping to maintain and enhance California’s public higher education system.”

Bailey, who is retiring in June after nearly 50 years as a professor and administrator at Cal Poly, said, “This gift represents a genuine desire by the Frosts to provide Cal Poly students with research experiences that promote intellectual growth fueled by curiosity, critical and creative thinking and personal initiative. Working with Bill on this project has been a highlight of my career.”

Photo information: Frost.jpg — The largest gift in California State University history is made to Cal Poly by alumnus Bill Frost and wife Linda. Pictured from left: College of Science and Mathematics Dean Phil Bailey, Linda Frost, Bill Frost, Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong and CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White.

Note to editors: Additional high-resolution photos of Wednesday’s event are available. Contact Media Relations Director Matt Lazier at 805-756-7109 or

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Cal Poly Among Top Hands-On Bladesmithing Teams in Nation
March 17, 2017

The science and art of smithing blades by hand is back on display in the biennial bladesmithing competition organized by the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

The art and science of blade-making was alive and well at the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society bladesmith competition, where Cal Poly placed in the top four of 26 international universities. The biennial event was held Feb. 28 in San Diego.

Cal Poly’s five-member team included materials engineering students Dylan Fitz-Gerald (pictured above), Cameron Atwood, Justin Boothe, Kyle Rosenow, and industrial and manufacturing engineering major Josh Ledgerwood.

“I really didn’t want to just make something sharp and pointy. I wanted it to be more than that,” said Fitz-Gerald, team leader.

“Our team participated in the first TMS Bladesmith Competition in 2015, which was a fantastic experience, and, for many of us, this year’s event represented our last chance at the competition,” he said. “It spurred us to use as many of the techniques and materials we’d always wanted to try, and to seek out ways to make the contest as challenging as possible.”

Instead of a more conventional, utilitarian blade, for example, the team opted for the slender elegance of the rapier, which embodied the kinds of challenges in design and production they were looking for.

“Because of the rapier’s size and design, we had to make new tools, such as a spring swage to round the tang to the right size so that we could thread it or a file guide that could accommodate different bevel angles and keep them straight and even,” said Fitz-Gerald. “We even had to build a new furnace to do our heat treatment because there weren’t any available that could handle the length of the blade. We also used an alloy, 51200 steel, that’s been gaining interest, but about which there is little known from a knife-makers’s perspective.”

The team also ventured into the world of ornamental ironworking techniques. Fitz-Gerald designed and built artistic ivy leaf patterns connected to the handle of the rapier, while a teammate made an ornamental cross-guard and another attached a pommel to the end.

The team’s derring-do approach to Learn by Doing sharpened their skills in engineering, metallurgy and science as nothing else could, said Fitz-Gerald. “Not only did we have to figure out how to do new things at every turn, but do it in such a way that it would be good enough that we’d be proud to present it at the international conference.”

The Cal Poly team also produced a video showing their process, a technical report about the blade and a poster presentation.




Cal Poly Named Top Producer of Faculty Fulbright Scholars — with Two from the College of Engineering
March 07, 2017

Cal Poly has been named a top producer of U.S. Fulbright scholars for the 2016-17 academic year by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Five faculty members, including three multi-year recipients, received Fulbright grants — more than any other public or private masters-level university in the nation.

Cal Poly’s Fulbright scholars represent four of the university’s six colleges: Zachary Peterson (top left) and three-time Fulbright scholar Jose Macedo (top right) from the College of Engineering; John Battenburg, a three-time Fulbright award winner in the College of Liberal Arts; Chris Carr, a four-time Fulbright scholar from the Orfalea College of Business; R. Thomas Jones of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Its Core Fulbright Scholar Program offers more than 500 teaching, research or combination teaching/research awards in more than 125 countries.

“Being named the top producer of Fulbright scholars in the nation is a great honor and speaks to the high quality and caliber of our faculty,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “I am proud of these dedicated educators, who will gain from and be inspired by these teaching assignments abroad, returning with new lessons to share with our students.”

The Fulbright Program also awards grants to U.S. students and teachers to conduct research and teach overseas.

About Cal Poly Engineering’s 2016-17 Fulbright Scholars:

Jose Macedo
Macedo, a professor and former chairman of the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department, will teach at the University of Technology and Engineering in Lima, Peru. He is a three-time Fulbright scholar and was a reviewer for the Fulbright Scholar program for four years. From March to July 2017, Macedo will teach and collaborate in research projects at UTEC. His focus areas include quality, lean management, statistical analysis, and automation, robotics and machine vision. He also plans to conduct a benchmark study of Peruvian manufacturing industry practices in conjunction with UTEC students and faculty. In 2008, he received a Fulbright Scholar award to work at the Universidad Tecnologica de Panama (UTP) for seven months.

Zachary Peterson
The associate professor of computer science visited last fall at University College London, the United Kingdom’s largest postgraduate institution and regarded as one of the world's leading multidisciplinary research universities. His project title was: This Is Not a Game: Advancing Cybersecurity Research and Education Through Play. He will continue some of his ongoing research in the use of games and play for teaching computer security concepts to new, younger, and non-technical audiences. He said being named a Fulbright scholar was the result of a package of increased U.S.-U.K. cyber-security cooperation that grew from bilateral meetings in January 2015 between then-President Barack Obama and former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Peterson leads Cal Poly’s computer cybersecurity program.

More online:
- For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit
- For lists of Fulbright Scholar recipients, visit

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