Engineering students design, build baja car for international competition
Each day in Bogard Hall, there is a group of students working from sunrise to sunset on Tech’s own baja car.
“A baja car is an off-road vehicle capable of going through any kind of rugged terrain,” said Vance Liles, preident of the Society of Automotive Engineers. “The terrain varies from year to year.”
Liles said the car is a project of the organization, which is comprised of students interested in the structure and design of motored vehicles.
Liles said he and other members of SAE work endlessly on the car, preparing to enter an international competition held at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tenn.
“For the competition, we were shipped a Briggs and Stratton motor with a page rulebook and told to build a car,” Liles said. “The goal is to build a car from the ground up that is able to withstand anything you throw at it.”
Liles said the design process started in October, and the actual building began in early December.
Former SAE president Jason Fletcher, a senior civil engineering major, said he is familiar with the process and knows how much patience is required.
“I cannot even describe to you the amount of stress involved in this completion,” Fletcher said. “In 2010 we loaded up the car in the trailer at literally the last possible second so we could make it to the competition on time.”
Fletcher said in 2010, SAE competed in its first baja car competition since the 90s. A gap that wide between years competing left SAE inexperienced.
“In 2010, our first year in the competition, we did not get to compete,” Fletcher said. “We were an inexperienced team who did not meet the frame criteria. It was a major disappointment, and I hope that the guys today learn from our mistakes in the past.”
The baja car competition takes place April 18-21. Preparing the baja car in time for the competition is going to take a lot of work from everybody, which means SAE members will have to record more hours than they have already, Liles said.
“We have about six people who have worked on it consistently, and I would say that each of them has logged at least 300 hours working on the car,” Liles said.
When SAE leaves for Tennessee Tech, they will not just be loading up the car, but they will be bringing quite a bit more, said Tanner Martin, a junior mechanical engineering major.
“We have to pack our entire shop into a trailer in preparation for any kind of breakdowns we have at the event,” Martin said.
As SAE continues to work countless hours in preparation for the competition, they will have the support of their former president, Fletcher said.
“I tried to make the organization what it could be, but it was my time to pass on the torch,” Fletcher said. “They have a car that we used and I think they will use that to succeed.”
With the competition nearing, SAE is working to put the final touches on their car and bring back an award, winning baja car to Ruston.
“I think we are going to do better than any other years before,” Martin said. “We have a baja car to build off of, and it is already finished more than a month before the competition. This is probably going to be the best year we have had.”
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