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From Keene State to Prototype Machinist at Specialized Bicycles

Story By:
Laurie O'Hara | Writer/Editor
Jacob Levenstein ’15
Jacob Levenstein ’15 at the Prototype Lab at Specialized Bicycle Components. Photo courtesy of Jacob.

Jacob Levenstein ’15 has always been a maker. He enjoys building things, was on his high school robotics team, and likes active participation in the classroom. The Sustainable Product Design and Innovation (SPDI; we say it “speedy”) program drew Jacob to Keene State. Now, he’s a prototype machinist and technician at Specialized Bicycle Components.

“The major for me was awesome because it has so many different aspects of hands-on learning and computer work,” said Jacob. “The way I would describe the program is that it’s using engineering, manufacturing, and design to create products in a way that ethically reduces and reuses materials.”

“I would honestly say my favorite thing about the program was the classes I took my last semester,” continued Jacob. “I was at a point where I wanted to do more than the curriculum aspect, so I took a lot of computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and computer numerical control (CNC) courses since that’s what I wanted to do for a career.”

After Jacob graduated from Keene State, he worked at Datum3D, a small product development and design firm in the Boston area, in their design prototype studio. The projects were varied as the firm helps businesses and entrepreneurs conceptualize their product ideas. After four years with the company, Jacob felt it was time for a new adventure and landed a job at Specialized Bicycle’s headquarters in California.

“I work on all the prototype components and test fixtures for future bikes,” said Jacob. “One of the biggest pushes these days is in our eBike division. As the only prototype lab for this global company, we machine and produce components based on designs given to us from all of our different engineering teams. Before the pandemic, a typical day in the lab would include analyzing files, redesigning for ease of manufacturability, coding, and then machining these using one of our 3, 4, or 5 axis CNC machines.”

Jacob enjoys that he’s still learning and developing new skills in his current role. “Right now, I’m learning how to enhance my skills on our 5 Axis CNC machine,” he said. “Specialized wants to be the best, so they invest in cutting-edge technology and equipment. While the pandemic has slowed some things down, I’m learning new software and programs, which is really beneficial to my personal success.”

When Jacob reflects back on how his Keene State education prepared him for his current role, he believes getting to take a wide range of courses in his major best prepared him. “I learned how to do a lot of different things, adapted to different situations, and was exposed to a variety of knowledge. All of that has helped,” he said.

And his advice for incoming SPDI majors? “For me, I wish I had dived into the major earlier and pushed myself, so my advice would be to try different things and experiment. Try not to only do the required courses, push yourself to do more.”

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