Matthew Manning holding the horn of Joe Jurantich's Viking helmet.
Joe Juranitch and Matthew Manning.

Joe Berger isn't the only Minnesota Viking with links to Michigan Tech. One other is the Harley-riding, axe-shaving, Green Bay Packer–baiting wild man known to most fans as Ragnar.

For every home game since 1994, Ragnar the Viking, aka Joe Juranitch, has donned a shaggy coat and custom mukluks and hopped on his motorcycle to lead the Viking charge out of the tunnel into the gridiron. But during the other six days of the week, Juranitch is most often found 260 miles north of the Twin Cities, in Ely, Minnesota, where he leads research and development for the family business, Razor Edge Systems.

Juranitch is a connoisseur of sharp. Before he became Ragnar, he broke his father John’s Guinness World Record by shaving his face with an axe in 8 minutes, 43 seconds. This toe-curling stunt illustrated in no uncertain terms that the company is literally about the cutting edge. The firm manufactures sharpening tools, primarily for the meatpacking industry but also for the general consumer, including chefs and sportsmen. And the newest members of Razor Edge’s R&D effort are five Michigan Tech students led by chemical engineering junior Matthew Manning (no relation to quarterbacks Peyton and Eli).

The students are members of the Consumer Product Manufacturing Enterprise, a consortium of student teams that tackle problems and develop products, often on behalf of industry. Manning's group has been working with Razor Edge to expand and develop the company's sharpening technologies.

"We provide sharpening equipment for the meat industry, but at this point nobody can say what sharp is, what quantifies sharp," Juranitch says. "For instance, if you're using a knife all day long, what would it be on a sharpness scale: a 5, a 9, or a 10? And how would that affect your productivity, and then what happens to your shoulder or your arm?"

The Enterprise's immediate goal is to develop just such a scoring system. "Our stretch goal is an ergonomic study, correlating sharpness with production and/or worker fatigue," Manning says.

"We provide sharpening equipment for the meat industry, but at this point nobody can say what sharp is, what quantifies sharp,"Joe Juranitch

"I'm already thinking about our next project," says Juranitch. "I'm really excited about the team we've put together."

That's understandable. Manning also knows a thing or two about sharp. An accomplished cook, he hopes to one day own his own restaurant. In the meantime, he says, "I don't let my roommates touch my knives."

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.