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Penn College Team Primed for International Competition

A dozen dedicated Pennsylvania College of Technology students are driven to succeed at Baja SAE Tennessee Tech. The students are aiming for a stellar showing at the demanding Society of Automotive Engineers competition, featuring 100 collegiate teams from throughout the United States and four other countries.

As members of the college’s Baja SAE Club, the students, all in manufacturing-related majors, have been preparing since the fall semester for the April 14-17 competition in Cookeville, Tennessee. The event tasks teams with designing and building a single-seat, off-road vehicle to complete various performance tests.

Nathan M. Eckstein, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Cambridge Springs, practices driving the Penn College car that will compete in Baja SAE Tennessee Tech.
Nathan M. Eckstein, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Cambridge Springs, practices driving the Penn College car that will compete in Baja SAE Tennessee Tech.

“These guys have been working very hard since the fall, obtaining sponsors, designing new elements for our car, compiling the required engineering and costs reports, and of course, working on the car itself,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining and the team’s adviser. “The students have taken it to a whole new level. Our goal is to be in the top 10 overall.”

Last year, Penn College finished 38th out of 97 teams at the competition.

The students have upgraded last year’s dune buggy-like vehicle with an improved clutch system and extensive tuning work. Tuning the continuously variable transition has made a major impact, according to Upcraft.

“It feels like a new car,” he said. “It’s quicker. It’s a big improvement over last year.”

SAE officials will inspect the car’s design and cost report before the students put the 380-pound vehicle through various challenges. Acceleration, sled pull, maneuverability and suspension tests precede a four-hour endurance race, the competition’s marquee event.

The team that completes the most laps over a rugged course in a four-hour time span wins the endurance race.

“Our goal is to finish in the top five of the endurance race,” Upcraft said. “I truly believe we have that type of car.”

Students slated to represent Penn College at Baja SAE Tennessee Tech are manufacturing engineering technology majors James A. Depasquale, of West Simsbury, Connecticut; Logan B. Goodhart, of Chambersburg; Jonathan R. Sutcliffe, of Orangeville; Jason B. Miller, of Mount Joy; Clinton R. Bettner, of Beaver Falls; Shane A. Linderman, of Leesport; Nathan M. Eckstein, of Cambridge Springs; and Shujaa AlQahtani, of State College; engineering design technology major Tanner A. Huff, of Altoona; engineering CAD technology major Ian E. Gardepe, of Hawley; and mechatronics engineering technology major Johnathan T. Capps, of North Wales.

Upcraft will accompany the students with John G. Marshalek, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining.

“Students who get involved with Baja SAE take their college experience to another level,” Upcraft said. “It’s like an ultra capstone project for them. Their experience with the competition is very attractive to potential employers.”

The Penn College team also plans to compete at Baja SAE Rochester in June.

For more information on manufacturing-related programs and other majors offered by the college’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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