Mechanical Engineering Department
BS in Mechanical Engineering
In 1875, the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse was built to warn ships sailing the California coast of the hazards of the rocky shore. In 1949 a fierce storm damaged the top portion of the lighthouse and the eight ton cast iron and brass assembly had to be replaced by a much lighter piece that still served the purpose of warning oncoming vessels. The former top portion came to rest in downtown Cambria and is still there today, enclosed in a glass room to be observed by visitors and townspeople. Today, the Piedras Blancas Light station is cared for by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A staff of mostly volunteers gives frequent tours of the light station and surrounding environment. In an attempt to give the people on the tour a better understanding of how the original light tower operated, the BLM has asked the Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering Department to design and build a working, scaled down model of the original top portion of the light house. It is desired to have a model that will demonstrate the way the original was gravity powered and how the gears worked to spin the massive first order lens. A working model is necessary because currently, the only remembrance of the original structure is a few pictures in the bottom of the lighthouse. Although helpful, these pictures do not clearly indicate the way ships were deterred from the jagged coast line. Beacon Engineering has taken on the project, and plans to have a working model of the original top portion of the light tower by December of 2010.