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Business venture, hands-on education lead Engineering student to York College

Brad Lockwood York College
Brad Lockwood transferred to York College to be closer to his solar-powered lawn mowing business.

It was a unique convergence of interests and beliefs that led 20-year-old Brad Lockwood – a Dallastown high school graduate, a burgeoning entrepreneur and self-proclaimed naturalist – to transfer to York College of Pennsylvania after two years at Penn State.

First, came Brad’s interest in anything mechanical. 

“I’ve always been mechanically minded,” he says. “I love cars, and anything that has a mechanical aspect to it, I was drawn toward.”

Next, came deep, philosophical thinking.

“In high school, I thought a lot about what I wanted to do with my life, what meaning I would have.  I love philosophy and would always think about that,” he says. “So, I decided that because I enjoyed mechanical things and loved nature, those things would push me in the direction of a Mechanical Engineering major but using it to serve the environment.”

Birth of an idea

Enter, Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, investor and inventor.

“I follow him pretty heavily and was inspired by what he does,” Brad says. “Because I love cars, his endeavors with electric cars struck my fancy.”

And, thus, Brad conceived and set out to create his own endeavor: a solar-powered lawn mowing business.

Not unlike most entrepreneurs, however, challenges lay ahead. For Brad, proximity, hands-on experience and knowledge were critical hurdles he needed to overcome or acquire to get his idea launched.

Miles to go

The drive every weekend from State College to York, where he was developing the solar charging station at his parent’s house for his lawn mowing business, was taking its toll on Brad, his studies and his business venture.

“I knew I couldn’t keep doing this, so I had to either bring the business to State College or make another decision about school,” he says.

It got to the point where he knew he'd have to make some changes – until an interview for a summer internship turned his sights toward York College.

When the recommendation to look at York College came from the internship interviewer, it pushed Brad closer to making the move from State College back home.

“I liked Penn State. It was challenging,” he says. “But, I heard all kinds of good things about York College, that they had a solid program, not to mention the school was only 10 minutes from my house. So, for me to continue my education and build my business simultaneously, I had to move.”

All hands on deck

If it’s not clear by now, Brad’s a hands-on kind of guy. It’s what he was looking for in a college mechanical engineering curriculum but didn’t felt he got in his first two years of college.

At York College, though, he was immediately thrust into the hands-on arena, starting with EGR100: Engineering Practice and Design Studio (EPADS), an introduction to engineering design course.

“In general, I had already heard how hands on York College’s curriculum is, which is a big deal in this field,” Brad says. “People who are currently hiring engineers want students to have that practical, hands-on experience. I know because I’ve talked to them.”

He’s getting that at York College, he says, with the school making sure every student has that experience.

What’s next?

Brad’s solar lawn mowing business started with three customers. As of early fall 2017, he had 13. But, that’s OK with him, for now. That growth has come purely from word-of-mouth, he says.

 “There’s a lot of social media and online stuff being said about it," Brad says. "But, with customers, they just want somebody to take excellent care of their lawn.”

On the other hand, Brad says, sometimes it’s a definite preference by the customer to use a service or business with a sustainability focus.

During the offseason, Brad plans to increase that focus even more and tackle some operational related items, such as improving inefficiencies in the design and manufacturing. And, of course, planning for his future.