Iron workers

Students assist alumnus hoping to patent new golf clubs

By Scott Borgelt

Mike Bishop '97, '00, a BGSU alumnus in the College of Technology, Architecture & Applied Engineering technology, didn’t take up golf until he was about 30. But the game has become a passion that now goes beyond spending time on the course.

The businessman is making his first attempt at golf-club design, and four BGSU seniors in their capstone class in mechanical design have aided his effort to build a better iron.

Working on the project for Bishop this winter were engineering technology students Baqer Aljabr, Michaela Becker, and Corey Collins and Brooke Leslie.

On the first day of spring semester in January, Bishop brought a Chinese-made, production-ready 7-iron to their class, taught by Dr. Mohammad Mayyas, associate professor of engineering technologies. Bishop was seeking a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing needed for the process of patenting his Pro-Series 58 irons.

His irons—from a 6-iron up through several types of wedges—are designed with what he calls “Face Forward Technology,” for beginners and mid-to-high-handicap golfers. A project summary notes that the clubs provide “an additional useable hitting surface with the same size golf iron head to impact the ball without the concern of a shank”—a poor hit in which the ball strikes the club’s hosel (where the shaft connects to the club head) and squirts to the right, for a right-handed player, or to the left, for a left-hander.

“I, like many amateur golfers, have become frustrated from time to time with not seeing sustained improvements” in golf technology, said Bishop, who earned his bachelor’s degree in  engineering technology in 1997. “As technology enhancements are introduced year after year, the average handicap has not decreased.

“During my career in the manufacturing industry, if a process wouldn’t consistently yield a good part, we would research design changes to improve the overall part yield,” the Van Buren, Ohio, resident continued.

“I took this thought process to the golf iron, knowing that an amateur golfer cannot consistently contact the ball with the ‘sweet spot’ of the club, at many times creating errant shots.”

Bishop tested various prototypes before settling on a primary design that was shipped to a Chinese firm that builds golf club components. And he connected with his alma mater through Dr. Todd Waggoner, a professor and interim assistant dean of the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering. Waggoner was also the major project adviser for Bishop’s master’s degree program in technology management, completed in 2000.

The number of student participants was limited to four—matching the number who expressed interest. They considered the project an opportunity and, said Becker, “a challenge to test our drawing skills.” It also tied in with his interest in golf, added Collins, who, like Becker, is an engineering technology major with a focus in mechanical design.

The students needed to do “a little reverse engineering” to create the CAD file, Bishop said. “I had production tools (sample clubs) and parts with only a basic hard-copy design,” he explained. “To apply for a design patent, a complete design is required to illustrate the special features, with the necessary views for this golf iron.”

Their first few efforts to create a three-dimensional drawing with a 3-D scanner were unsuccessful. But combining a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) with a scanner “worked beautifully,” producing a perfect scan, Becker said. And the CMM’s maker, Florida-based FARO Technologies Inc., had the software to convert the file of what had been scanned into the detailed CAD drawing.

The students used their prior knowledge of that SolidWorks software to make the drawing, noted Collins, from Urbana, Ohio. BGSU classes in which they’ve practiced 3-D modeling also helped, said Leslie, an electromechanical systems technology major from Norwalk, Ohio. So did her co-op experience in designing and detailing at David Price Metal Services in Norwalk, where she also hopes to be hired after graduation in May.

Becker, from Perrysburg, Ohio, said that discovering how to turn the STL file into a CAD drawing “was a big learning process for me.” The same was true, with the use of different 3-D scanners, for Aljabr, a mechanical design major from Saudi Arabia. For Collins, the entire process, of “trying to take scans and not getting the results we wanted” before finding success, was an interesting experience.

But there was an even bigger picture for Leslie, who just transferred to the Bowling Green campus after two years at BGSU Firelands. “I thought of it as a way to show off what we’re doing” as engineering students at BGSU, “and the opportunities you can get here,” she said.

And “what we’re capable of doing here,” Becker pointed out. After two years as an undecided major, she settled on engineering and found what she was looking for at BGSU, including the recent “real-world” experience to add to her resume.  

The students “did a great job,” said Bishop, praising everything “from the leadership of the professor to the ongoing communication from the team to the actual execution of the project. The team met the requirements of creating a CAD file with all of the required views within six weeks.”

The design patent process for the irons is ongoing, he added, noting that all 20 participants in a “demo day” for the clubs offered “very positive feedback.”