College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Relieving stress through skateboarding

Josh Jarnagin elevates on a ramp at the Ames skatepark. Photo courtesy of Josh Jarnagin.

Everyone has their own ways of unwinding after a stressful day. Mechanical engineering student Josh Jarnagin unwinds by hopping on his skateboard and hitting the skatepark.

Jarnagin grew up in River Grove, just west of Chicago, and started skating around the age of eight. He was inspired by Torey Pudwill, Kyle Walker, Daewon Song, Paul Rodriguez and other popular skaters during this era. He also enjoyed building with LEGOs as a kid, which inspired him to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering (ME) when he got to college, selecting Iowa State University because of its strong engineering reputation.

“I loved the versatility of mechanical engineering and the fact that I would be able go into so many different industries with my degree,” said Jarnagin.

Part of the way that Jarnagin has connected with some of the material in his coursework is by tying it back to skateboarding. Having an understanding of physics and geometry, for example, helps him to evaluate and improve his skating style.

“I actually do apply a decent chunk of engineering principles to skateboarding. A lot of what I do involves looking back at videos of me skating and figuring out how to correct my mistakes. Some of the things include the angle at which my toes flick the board for a trick or my center of balance when I am hitting the ground,” he said.

Josh Jarnagin boardslides a ledge at a skatepark in Franklin Park, Ill. Photo courtesy of Josh Jarnagin.

When he’s not busy with coursework or skating, Jarnagin might be found doing research in the lab of Carmen Gomes, ME associate professor. His work involves biosensing using laser-induced graphene. He and the research team use this methodology of sensing to detect levels of nitrate and nitrite in a variety of situations from meat to soil. Jarnagin said knowing these levels of nitrate and nitrite are important to making sure that consumers are not exposed to levels that are above the recommended intake.

“Working in Dr. Gomes’ lab has been one of the best experiences of my life,” said Jarnagin. “Working under her guidance and with the graduate students has really helped me to see the contributions that can be made to science in the engineering field.”

Jarnagin plans to complete his B.S. in ME in December 2021. After graduating, he will work in product development for HNI in Muscatine, Iowa, specifically focusing on 3D design of new parts. He said that skateboarding was often a nice way to unwind after a busy school day, and he hopes skateboarding continues to be an outlet for him to relax.

“To me, skateboarding is so freeing. It helps to balance some of the challenges of college life as an engineering student. Some of my favorite times to skateboard are right after exams or when I finish up homework or even after a long day of work. It really helps me to decompress,” he said.