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 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:
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.
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.
- For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit http://eca.state.gov/fulbright.
- For lists of Fulbright Scholar recipients, visit http://www.cies.org/.
# # #