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Manufacturing Students Compete at International Baja Competition


They didn’t bring home a trophy, but a contingent of talented Pennsylvania College of Technology manufacturing students returned from an international competition with a winning experience.

Five months of the students’ intensive outside-of-class work culminated at the recent Baja SAE in Mechanicsville, Maryland. The four-day Society of Automotive Engineers event tasked students with designing and building an off-road, single-seat vehicle to complete various performance tests.

In the overall standings, Penn College finished 38th out of 97 teams from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Egypt, India, Mexico, South Korea, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates. The college’s best showing was a seventh-place finish in the suspension event.

Penn College team members proudly surround their car during Baja SAE in Mechanicsville, Md. Penn College competed against 96 other teams from the United States and eight other countries.
Penn College team members proudly surround their car during Baja SAE in Mechanicsville, Md. Penn College competed against 96 other teams from the United States and eight other countries.

“The students worked harder than any group in the past,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining and the Penn College team’s adviser. “They deserved to score better. The students were able to do a lot of cool engineering with the car. They also did great with the required paperwork and even secured a team sponsor.”

Acero Precision, an industry-leading original equipment manufacturer based in West Chester, donated $2,000 to sponsor the team.

A frustrating finish in Baja SAE’s marquee event, the four-hour endurance race, dropped the college in the standings. Despite a loose bolt in the car’s transmission, Penn College successfully navigated the rugged course’s steep terrain until a wreck ended the team’s day with 33 of a possible 52 laps completed.

According to Upcraft, an opposing car forced the Penn College entry into one of the course’s tire barriers, resulting in a 33rd-place showing. The accident ended the college’s recent string of success in the endurance race. Penn College had posted three straight top 10 finishes in the event, including a third-place showing last year.

The Penn College #106 car navigates a hill ...
The Penn College #106 car navigates a hill …

“Our car was running well. We just had some bad luck in the later stages of the race,” Upcraft said. “The result is not indicative of the tremendous commitment shown by the students and the excellent work they did on the car.”

... and takes flight during the endurance race.
… and takes flight during the endurance race.

The students significantly altered last year’s dune buggy-like vehicle by installing new brake and steering systems. With assistance from the plastics department at the college and the Ralph S. Alberts Co., a multifaceted custom molder in Montoursville, the team also replaced the car’s aluminum seat with one made of carbon fiber. The new seat helped reduce the car’s weight from 396 to 384 pounds. Upcraft estimates the students, all members of the college’s chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, devoted 30 hours a week to the project throughout the spring semester.

“It’s amazing how they all came together and pulled off such significant changes,” Upcraft said. “The work certainly relates to their majors, but often they don’t get to do such extensive work in a class environment. I’m glad they made the most out of this opportunity outside of class.”

“I share John’s enthusiasm for the effort shown by the Penn College team,” said David R. Cotner, dean of the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies. “I’m proud of the students. It’s gratifying to see how well they incorporated their applied-technical education while still in school.”

The Penn College team consisted of manufacturing engineering technology majors Clinton R. Bettner, of Beaver Falls; James A. Depasquale, of West Simsbury, Connecticut; Nathan M. Eckstein, of Cambridge Springs; Logan B. Goodhart, of Chambersburg; Andrew R. Klimek, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Shane A. Linderman, of Leesport; Benjamin D. Lopatofsky, of Williamsport; Ryan M. MacFarland, of Revere; Eric J. Mahon, of Stanhope, New Jersey; Jason B. Miller, of Mount Joy; and Taylor R. Schmidt, of Hampstead, Maryland.

Nathan M. Eckstein, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Cambridge Springs, drives the Penn College car to a seventh-place finish in the suspension event.
Nathan M. Eckstein, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Cambridge Springs, drives the Penn College car to a seventh-place finish in the suspension event.

Other team members were Austin R. Ayars, a welding technology major from Nazareth, and Jonathan T. Capps, a mechatronics engineering technology major from North Wales. John G. Marshalek, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining, accompanied the team with Upcraft.

With the majority of those students expected back in the fall, Upcraft said plans are already being made for next year’s competition. He predicted the team’s car will feature a new gearbox, new axles and remanufactured parts.

But he anticipates the same commitment to the competition, which is meant to simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges.

“Our students are determined to have next year’s results accurately reflect their effort and performance,” he said.

For information about manufacturing engineering technology and other majors offered by the college’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

For more about Penn College, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Group photo by Marshalek; all others by Goodhart

Comments

Dick LaCerra,

Outstanding showing of PCT know-how! Congrats to all involved!

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