For the second time in school history, Pittsburg State University hosted the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competition.
The four-day event was from Thursday, May 22, through Sunday, May 25. It was the first time since 2011 that PSU hosted it.
Baja SAE consists of three regional competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Engineering students from all over the country as well as the globe took part in the competition where they were tasked with designing and building an off-road vehicle that can survive the severe punishment of rough terrain.
The static events took place at the Kansas Technology Center and the dynamic events took place at the Dynamic Event Site east of campus.
The four-day event included technical inspections, design judging, brake testing, and sales presentations to fictitious potential manufacturers and/or customers on day one.
For competitors, the event brings many challenges.
“We’ve hit some bumps. Our engine was sent to us broken so we spent three hours to fix it to pass inspection,” said Jenni Herchek, a senior in mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Day two consisted of dynamic testing of each vehicle. For testing, the vehicles are challenged by a suspension course, a maneuverability course, a sled pull, and a speed and acceleration test. All events held that day were timed with vehicles being tested one at a time on each course.
“We had problems with engine check but the big one is the design,” Herchek said. “If you don’t pass all the rules, you can get disqualified unless you fix it.”
Once the competition ends, preparation for next year’s Baja SAE begins right away.
“We’ve been working on our car all year,” said Dordon Gregory, sophomore in computer engineering at Clemson University. “Ever since we got done with the competition last year.”
Other students have been working on their vehicles over the course of their college years.
“For us, we’ve been making leaps and bounds over the past three years. We’re really happy with this car,” said Alec Burgess, junior in mechanical engineering from the University of Arkansas.
For most students, the challenging parts include working on their cars while balancing their work schedule back home.
“I’ve been down in Dallas this last semester on an internship so not being here has been a challenge,” Burgess said. “I’ve been back and forth. I did some of the designs during the fall semester,” Burgess said.
Not to mention, there’s also the laundry list of rules to follow.
“The judges look at the frame and safety equipment,” Burgess said. “The rule book is probably a thousand pages long on how to make the frame and the requirements. We can’t modify the engine at all. They check for that in the tech inspection.”
According to Kyle Swanton, freshman in mechanics from Missouri S&T, the rules can be muggy.
“Just the whole challenge of creating a car that meets all the expectations is tough,” Swanton said. “The rules aren’t the clearest but we try.”
But for everyone, the exciting part was the competition.
“It’s been really well-organized. It’s exciting watching everyone doing their last- minute checks,” Swanton said.
“We just want to have a great race,” Burgess said. In El Paso (Texas) we got knocked out but were able to fix it. It was a month ago. We learned a lot and been able to strengthen the design on our car.”
Baja SAE concluded with the rigorous Honda Endurance Event, which was held on a course designed and built by PSU east of the Bicknell Sports Complex.
The overall winner of the entire Baja SAE event is the team that performs well in all aspects of the competition. First place went to Centro Universitario Da FEI. The University of Michigan finished second while Iowa State took third with the Briggs & Stratton Overall Award.
The winner of the Polaris Design Award was Centro Universitario Da FEI while Eecola Politecnica da Univ de Sao Paulo won the Sales Presentation Award.
The Honda Endurance Award went to Iowa State University and Cornell University on the Honda R&D Overall Dynamics Award. Ecole De Technologie Superieure was second and Iowa State was third.
“Overall, it was a great event,” assistant professor and event organizer Trent Lindbloom said. “We have heard very positive things from SAE and the teams. From the beginning, the event was designed to test the students to the limit.”