Junior engineering major Oliver Pacchiana died in the accident in Namibia over the weekend.
"This hits you hard; it's really tough," Penn band director Greer Cheesman said.
Cheesman says Pacchiana was in the band freshman year and lived with his band friends until he went overseas.
The group got the news last night.
In the engineering school, the staff says he was a passionate and hardworking student who spent long hours working on the electric racing team.
"I would go home and he would still be there. I don't know that he slept there, but you got the feeling that he was certainly there very often," said Bruce Kothmann, Senior Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics.
Pacchiana was from Greenwich, Connecticut. He was an Eagle Scout and someone who friends say liked to be active.
"Having not seen him for several months and now realizing he's never going to come back is really a sad thing," Kothmann said.
"He will be missed. He was a great kid. It's a clich?, but he was a great kid," Cheesman said.
The university is planning to have a memorial service for Pacchiana. Those plans are still being worked out.