Penn College manufacturing students excel at international Baja competition

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Pennsylvania College of Technology manufacturing students were driven to succeed at a recent international showcase simulating real-world engineering. The Penn College contingent placed third out of nearly 100 teams in the marquee event at Baja SAE in Pittsburg, Kan.

The Society of Automotive Engineers competition required students to design and build off-road cars to be tested in various categories. Penn College met the challenge in the four-hour endurance race. The students’ dune buggy-like vehicle completed 52 laps over a rugged 1.5-mile course to finish third, the highest ranking in the college’s nine-year history at the event.

“I am very proud of this group of students for their hard work and dedication in accomplishing this result, as well as their contribution to the overall reputation, standing and prestige of Penn College,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining and the students’ adviser.

The team consisted of six students from Penn College’s chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

The team included manufacturing engineering technology majors Clinton R. Bettner, of Beaver Falls, Pa.; James A. Depasquale, of West Simsbury, Conn.; Andrew R. Klimek, of Cherry Hill, N.J.; Benjamin D. Lopatofsky, of Williamsport, Pa.; and Jason B. Miller, of Mount Joy, Pa. Kelvin R. Dewalt, of Easton, Pa., a May graduate in welding and fabrication engineering technology, was also a member. John G. Marshalek, instructor of automated manufacturing and machining, accompanied the team with Upcraft.

The students worked on designing, manufacturing and building the 396-pound car throughout the spring semester. A donated Briggs & Stratton 10-horsepower engine powered the vehicle.

“The skills required to design and build the car are related to their majors, but the students don’t necessarily have the opportunity to do this specific type of work in class,” Upcraft said. “They did all the work on the car outside of class. It was a valuable experience for them.”

Approximately 100 colleges and 1,100 students from throughout North America and the world competed at Baja SAE-Kansas, conducted in late May at Pittsburg State University. The event’s stated objective was to offer “a challenging project that involves the design, planning and manufacturing tasks found when introducing a new product to the consumer/industrial market.”

The four-day competition featured technical inspections and several dynamic testing events for all cars. In addition to the endurance race, Penn College’s No. 86 car posted top-25 finishes in Land Maneuverability (17th) and Sled Pull (24th).

However, the team’s focus was the endurance race. Penn College finished sixth in the race last year and seventh in 2012.

“It’s considered the main event. Everything builds up to it,” Upcraft said. “It really puts the cars to the test. Usually, about half the cars don’t even finish the race!”

Only Iowa State University and the University of Michigan bested Penn College in this year’s endurance event. The third-place showing put Penn College ahead of such well-known institutions as Cornell, Rochester Institute of Technology, Lehigh, Arizona State, Purdue, North Carolina State, the University of California, Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, the University of Virginia and Auburn.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our Penn College team,” said David R. Cotner, dean of the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies. “The students’ performance at such a high-profile competition truly illustrates the value of an applied-technical education and helps to build our national reputation.”

SAE presented the Penn College team with a trophy and a $500 check earmarked for the college’s student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

“I’m very happy,” Upcraft said. “It was truly an honor to get that trophy.”

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

For more about Penn College, which is celebrating its Centennial throughout 2014, visit, email or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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Last Updated June 10, 2014