SBHS alum springs into action to solve gate issue

Kowalk uses engineering knowledge to help Nash Road gate

San Benito High School alumnus Logan Kowalk checks out the swinging gats on Nash Road that he was asked to help fix. Photo courtesy of San Benito High School

A San Benito High School alumnus got called into action recently and helped fix an issue with the pivot arms that control the gates that block off Nash Road to through traffic during school days.

Cuesta College mechanical engineering major Logan Kowalk—a 2018 San Benito High School graduate—was happy to lend a helping hand.

Maintenance tradesworker technician Daren Dickison determined that the length or the geometry of the arms that control the gates from the motor was not quite right, causing a breaker to be tripped and extending the arms into the bike lanes.

Dickison reached out to Kowalk—his longtime neighbor in Hollister—for advice.

The challenge was having the gates’ arms at a length that would not overtax the motor and still keep them out of the nearby bike lane. Dickison said it made sense to talk to the college freshman who plans to eventually major in engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

“I sent Logan pictures of the current layout and dimensions, and he had a range of measurements for me to work with within just a few hours,” Dickison said. He then made a wooden set of arms to test the length and strength of the arms that Kowalk engineered, and “it was very apparent that he nailed exactly what we were looking for: easy on the motor and still keeping the arms out of the bike lane.”

Dickison then fabricated the new arms, and the gates have been functioning without impeding the bike lane ever since. The success of the remote engineering work done by Kowalk was not a surprise to his neighbor, as Dickison recalls Logan growing up “always wanting to turn a wrench or swing a hammer.”

“Math and mechanical issues always came easy to him, whether it was with his schoolwork or rebuilding his motocross bike without any previous experience,” Dickison said. “Just give him a service manual and turn him loose.”

During an early April visit to campus while on a break from college, Kowalk was able to check out the new gate arms in person, recalling that he took the specs and measurements provided by Dickison to run a simulation in his college engineering class using an AutoCAD (computer-aided design) program.

“Daren and I have worked together for many years on side projects, and he knew my major is mechanical engineering,” Kowalk said. “He drew me a schematic to give me the locations of the motor, gate and bike lane, and based off that I could run my simulation.”

Kowalk said it was nice to work on a real-world problem and get it solved.

“It’s pretty motivating to continue on the path I’m on,” he said, noting that he is taking classes in engineering, physics, calculus and English at Cuesta.

Kowalk has always been handy, with friends and neighbors frequently bringing him their card, trucks or dirt bikes for repair work throughout high school.

“I enjoy working on cars and solving problems,” he said. “But I also enjoy doing the mechanical equations behind structures and powertrains.” His career goal is to work on machinery or military equipment.

Until then, Kowalk is thankful he took Tate Edwards’ Advanced Placement physics 1 and 2 classes at San Benito High School.

“They were the first classes where you could apply the math that you’ve been learning throughout elementary, middle and high school and finally put some validity to those numbers,” Kowalk said. “I liked getting to see how those calculations that meant nothing before could be demonstrated and proven by physical concepts. Doing math for the sake of math is not fun. Having those physics problems mean something is the coolest part.”

Kowalk also noted that he took woodshop and auto classes in high school and said the cabinet-making instruction he received at SBHS helped him better understand design processes.

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