Nathaniel Troupe

Nathaniel Troupe holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Penn State. Upon graduating in 2011, he followed his dream to work in NASCAR racing. Today he is employed by Richard Childress Racing and serves as the lead race engineer for the #13 Geico Chevorolet Team owned by Germain Racing.

What made you choose engineering?

I’ve always had a curiosity and interest in the math and sciences.  I’m also from a small rural town in Pennsylvania.  That meant a lot of “shade tree mechanic” work.  When something broke we took it apart and tried to diagnose and fix it.  I would say through trial and error.  I started to enjoy taking things apart and understanding how they tick.  Sometimes redesigning parts and pieces to where I thought it would operate better.  Not always the case but that’s part of engineering.

Who has made the most impact on your engineering career as a mentor today?

I can’t limit it to just one person.  I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot from my high school faculty at Purchase Line High School to the Penn State faculty: Carson Baird, Leland Engel, Sean Brennan. In NASCAR, Robert “Bootie Barker, Matt Swiderski, Grant Hutchens, Mike Wolf, Chris Andrews, Slugger Labbe.  I could keep going but there are just too many to list.  Each person has made an impact on my career and how to carry myself moving forward.

What has been the most challenging obstacle in your career so far?

You have the sanctioning body of NASCAR trying to make a fair playing field for everyone.  Then you have 40 teams competing against each other every week to ultimately win a championship. The obstacle has been trying to find that advantage to give our team the winning edge.  It’s in everything that we do.  From analyzing race strategy, tire data, predicting fuel mileage, chassis design, vehicle geometry and so on.

What is your next big project or goal in the near future?

The next step or goal would be to become a crew chief.  Since we as Penn Staters understand football I’m going to put it in football terms.  My position is currently equivalent to an offensive/defensive coordinator.  The crew chief is the head coach and our driver is the quarterback.  At the end of the day the crew chief makes the calls on when to pit and what adjustments to make to the car.  Currently I do all of the simulation work and I give recommendations on what adjustments to make to the car. 

I’ve also thought about broadening my horizons to a career other than NASCAR.  I think it would make me a more rounded and versatile race engineer if I were to work in Formula 1, Le Mans, INDYCAR, V8 Supercars or Formula E. 

What interests do you have outside of your engineering career?

In what free time I do have.  I always have some kind of project going on.  Working on my 63’ Chevy step side or working on remodeling projects at my house.  I enjoy travel.  I know it’s probably hard to believe since I travel over 36 weeks out of the year but find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

What advice would you give to current mechanical engineering students at Penn State?

Enjoy your time at Penn State. At the end of the day, you get what you put into it. Don’t take it for granted because there is no other place like it.  The access students have to the real world through what they learn in the classroom is incredible.  It has prepared me for what I do today and has helped open doors that I would have never dreamed of. 

- Written by MNE alumnus Justin LaTorre

nathaniel troupe at NASCAR race

Nathaniel Troup (seated, center) with colleagues at a NASCAR race.

 
 

About

The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the nation’s largest and most successful engineering departments. We serve more than 1,000 undergraduate students and more than 330 graduate students

We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S., M.Eng.) graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering. MNE's strength is in offering hands-on experience in highly relevant research areas, such as energy, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems.

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

137 Reber Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519