Faculty

John Upcraft

  • Automated Manufacturing & Machining

It all began when 15-year-old John landed a gig as a mechanic at his local bicycle shop. He loved riding BMX and excelled at troubleshooting repairs. As his mechanical talents progressed, he also took an interest in machining. By the time he was a senior in high school, John designed and machined his own bike frame. This passion for creating and drive for innovation spurred his decision to choose a career in machining over business. And the rest is history.

John Upcraft
TAKING THE LEAD

Q&A with John

HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN MACHINING?

Growing up when BMX racing was big, I developed a huge love for bicycles. At the age of 15, I landed a job as a bicycle mechanic in State College, which helped support my bike habit for many years. In my senior year of high school, I designed and built my very first bicycle frame for a shop project with some guidance from Bill Grove of Grove Innovations. In 1990, the bicycle shop that I worked at was purchased by Grove Innovations, and I was transferred to help with production. I enjoyed that summer more than any before. I got to set up and run vertical milling machines, engine lathes and even got to do some painting. I was a business administration major at Penn State, but when it was time to return to the university for the fall semester, I just couldn’t do it. I knew that I loved building cool and innovative products, and I took great pride in my work. So I started looking around at colleges that had hands-on learning and immediately found Penn College. The only choice was whether to enroll in machining or welding. Once again with some guidance from Bill Grove, I enrolled in toolmaking technology. 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT TEACHING?

There are many things that I enjoy about teaching. It is fun to engage the students when they are forced to use their critical thinking skills. Sometimes, it is challenging to explain certain concepts, but it is rewarding when you see the light bulb go on in their head. And if you repeat this process for the two or four years that they are here, you get to witness them grow from a wide-eyed freshman to a competent, mature and skilled person that is ready for the workforce. This is especially true for the students who I advise for the Penn College SAE Baja Club. Many of the Baja alumni keep in touch and often comment on how their experiences at Penn College shaped them into the people that they are today. I value those compliments more than those alumni will ever know. I am grateful that I work at a great school, with wonderful coworkers and students who appreciate the quality of the education they receive.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE VALUE OF A DEGREE IN MACHINING?

I like the word “value” when discussing our degrees. For the foreseeable future, there will be a high demand for skilled workers in the manufacturing field. Our department is constantly being contacted by great companies, looking to hire our graduates. Many of these companies come on campus to actively recruit, offering high salaries, health insurance and retirement benefits. With a 99% job-placement rate, I would argue that our degree is one of the best college values out there. 

 

WHAT HAS BEEN THE STUDENTS’ REACTION TO THE COLLEGE’S UPDATED MACHINING LAB?

It’s been overwhelmingly positive. They are excited to be working under a revised curriculum in a new clean environment with new equipment. The renovation has affirmed their decision to come to Penn College and to go into the manufacturing/machining field. The students are proud of their new lab and are taking extra time to do a little more cleaning to ensure that it stays nice. Current students are texting pictures of the new shop to alumni to show it off. Everyone is very proud. 

YOU WERE THE FIRST RECIPIENT OF A PENN COLLEGE BACCALAUREATE DEGREE IN 1993. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE PART OF THE SCHOOL’S HISTORY? DID YOU REALIZE THE SIGNIFICANCE AT THAT TIME?

I’m proud that I received the first baccalaureate degree from Penn College. As far as realizing the significance, it’s always been cool to brag that I was the very first one, but I try not to take myself too seriously. 

WHY SHOULD SOMEONE INTERESTED IN MACHINING STRONGLY CONSIDER PENN COLLEGE?

We have a renovated lab with new up-to-date equipment. We have revised our curriculum to address the changing needs of the workforce. We have instructors with decades of real-word experiences from a variety of manufacturing industries to give students the best manufacturing education. The potential for graduates to secure high-paying jobs with benefits is almost endless.  

Real-World Ready

"It is fun to engage the students when they are forced to use their critical thinking skills. Sometimes, it is challenging to explain certain concepts, but it is rewarding when you see the light bulb go on."

 

John Upcraft

Always innovating
Student Organizations

Always innovating

At Penn College, you'll find plenty of opportunities to flex your technical and critical thinking skills outside of the classroom. Join the SAE Baja team and work with a team of masterminds - including John who is the group's adviser - to build a high-performance single-seat off-road vehicle. Then you'll put your creation to the test in an endurance race. Wildcat teams have earned eight top 10 finishes since 2011.

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Programs

Automated Manufacturing & Machining

From automobiles to aerospace, machined parts are everywhere. With a degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology, you can be a part of the action!

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