Armoring the Cougs: AgTM 201 metal shop builds custom shield for Cougar football video

Shield pose AgTM
Shield builders of WSU AgTM: Ryley Griffiths, Frank Ji, Anthony Poggo, and Teaching Associate Professor J.D. Baser

From tractor parts to cattle panels, students in Washington State University’s Agriculture Technology and Production Management metal shop course can fix or make practically anything. This fall was the first time they’ve built a medieval-style shield, a lot like something a knight or gladiator would have carried.

The man-at-arms in this case was WSU linebacker and All-Pac-12 first team nominee Daiyan Henley, who wielded the Cougar logo-emblazoned shield in a promotional video filmed for the football teams appearance against USC.  The uniform reveal videos are sponsored by the Washington Lottery.

“This was really cool,” said Ryley Griffiths, one of the four students who built the buckler. Griffiths helped set the video’s industrial mood, shooting sprays of sparks and large flames with grinders and welding torches just off camera.

“It was a team effort, and everybody pitched in,” he said.

The shield originated from conversations between WSU Athletics staff and J.D. Baser, Agricultural Education teaching associate professor and head of the AgTM 201 Metals Fabrication Course.

“They had an idea: can we film something in the shop with an athlete, actually make something?” Baser said.  “They wanted a shield.”

Baser turned to his senior teaching assistants: Griffiths, Anthony Poggi (Criminal Justice), Spencer Hamilton (Agricultural Education), and Frank Ji, an Animal Sciences major, who came up with the design, then sliced out a spade-shaped plate on the shop lab’s new plasma cutter.

Plasma cutter
Teaching assistant Frank Ji developed skills using the metal shop lab’s recently acquired plasma cutter.

“It was a big learning experience for me,” said Ji, who had never plasma-cut a sheet that broad before. “My first thought was, ‘Wow, am I making something that might be on national TV?'”

About half of Baser’s students are WSU agricultural education students, who take shop as a requirement so they can teach their own future students how to maintain farm equipment and manufacture. The rest, including Ji, who graduates this fall, take the course as an elective to broaden their sets of skills.

Metal shop skills, Griffiths said, are “super applicable” to life: “My family has a cattle ranch, and I’m their main metal guy.”

“When tractor parts snap, I put them back together until we can get a replacement,” he added. “Cows are pretty tough on their feeders, so I weld the frames. The more you do on your own, the more you can save.”

Trio with shield
AgTM metal fabrication class assistants Ryley Griffiths, Frank Ji, and Anthony Poggo hold the Cougar shield in the metal shop lab.

Made of steel, with a stenciled Cougar logo fashioned from diamond-plate sheet metal, the 20-pound shield offered a fun and novel challenge to these experienced assistants.

“When it comes to hands-on training, and real, applicable skills, these courses support the WSU land-grant mission,” Baser said.  “For a lot of our students, it’s about personal growth. Metal shop skills can help with their own future businesses or farms. Many come from the engineering disciplines. If you know how to use a lathe or mill, you’ll work more effectively with the people who will make what you design.”

“This was a great project for both AgTM and Athletics,” he added. “We had an opportunity to build something with new equipment that was really fun. I’ve love to do something with them again.”

The shield now hangs on the shop wall but may have more adventures ahead someday.

“We should sign it, put a maker’s mark on it,” Poggi said. “We’d like to see it in a place where more people can appreciate it.”

Learn more about hands-on education at the Ag Technology and Production Management major website.

Bench Grinder
AgTM Metal Fabrication instructor JD Baser, right, works with a student on a bench grinder. The metals class helps students from across WSU disciplines learn skills for life and business.