Halloween song that my children and I made up many years ago.

2001-2013  |  Community Service  |  Contribution to the Arts  |  Date Range  |  Gallery  |  Other Memories/Reflections  |  Staff Stories  |  Topic

“Even though I am going on 60 years old now I still enjoy showing people how to run the equipment and how to build things,” writes UM-Flint machine shop supervisor John O’Brien.

“I intend to be here for a while watching the students learn and find some excitement in building things.

“I was born before the internet, e-mail and cable Television. I was born in the 50’s and the economy was going strong. My father was an Engineer and graduated from General Motors Institute in 1958. He worked as a production engineer for many years before my mother became ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He retired then and has been retired since before her death.

“I graduated from high school and got a job working as an industrial machine repairman for General Motors until my retirement in 2008. This was the same year that I attained my Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technologies. I graduated with a 3.85 GPA. This was pretty good considering that I spent many nights coming home from work and then going to see my child’s games and events and then studying for hours afterwards to get a good grade. So I can understand what people are going through when they tell me that they had to study all night.

“After I retired from General Motors I looked long and hard for a job. At the time I was 51 years old and I am sure that this had an impact on my opportunities. I have always loved working with my hands and also machinery. My biggest disappointment during my working days at GM was that I was unable to share my knowledge with apprentices. There were none. As an apprentice myself I enjoyed learning about all of the various problems that machines could have and how to repair them, do preventative maintenance and also how to do predictive maintenance on them.

“In 2008 the economy had taken a big hit and everything looked pretty dismal. I ended up going to the International Manufacturers tool show in Chicago Illinois (the IMTS) looking for work.

“What I found at the show was a place that built gear cutting equipment called R.P. Machine. I got a job there and was paid well ($65/hour) to do it. I was able to show many people how the machines worked and I got to program the machines and run different gears on them. I worked with some great people and did a lot of traveling.

“I spent over six months in Mexico installing large gashing machines. These built gears for windmills, MRI machines and the knuckles for log loaders. The tolerances where pretty small by most people’s estimates but to me they were pretty easy as I had worked with much closer tolerances. After a few years this job lost its appeal to me as I was always away from my beautiful wife. She is the best part of me. So, I finally got a job that was closer to home and even though it doesn’t pay nearly as well it gives me the chance to show students how the machinery works and I love it.

“I am now the machine shop supervisor at the University of Michigan-Flint. Along with Greg Keller, I work with students and faculty to keep things running like a well-oiled machine. The Department is Engineering, which is part of CSEP (Computer Science, Engineering and Physics). My job is to bring equipment into the building, be trained on the equipment, and mentor the students in senior design projects to ensure that they know what is expected of them when they get to the real world.

“I started a woodworking club in 1985 called the Eastern Michigan Woodworkers that has donated toys for tots each year since its inception. I play guitar for my own enjoyment and was in the string ensemble at Mott Community College for 7 years. I am now working with Genesee Early College (based at UM-Flint) on FIRST Robotics.

“I have three adult children who are all on their own making a living and paying their way.

“Life is good.”