UTC students were double trouble for competitors in this year’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Mini Baja competitions. For the first year, UTC had two teams build off-road vehicles and place in intercollegiate racing competitions.
Each year, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) sponsors an intercollegiate Mini Baja Series competition. Teams consisting of engineering students from universities around the world are tasked with designing, building and testing a vehicle to compete in one of six regional competitions. Students are challenged to work as a team and build an off-road vehicle to race through adverse conditions and rough terrain.
“Participating in the SAE competition gives students an unique out-of-class experience. It gets them beyond their textbooks and into real world, practical application. They get an idea of what the design process is like, which greatly prepares them for their future careers,” Dr. Gary McDonald, Head of the UTC Department of Mechanical Engineering, said.
“We’ve seen increased interest in the program since Volkswagen came to Chattanooga. The carmaker has sponsored our teams for the past two years,” Gary McDonald, Head of the UTC Department of Mechanical Engineering, said.
The Racing Mocs, the University’s senior team, placed overall 29th of 99 teams in the SAE Kansas competition, beating schools like Clemson University, University of Alabama, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The underclassmen team, the Raging Mocs, placed overall 24th of 55 teams at the SAE Illinois event.
Though the project requires many hours of dedication, University officials emphasizes the education students receive through the entire process.
“The SAE competition is the biggest project we do. “It takes about 5,000 to 6,000 man hours and $12,000 to $14,000 to build the vehicle,” Karl Fletcher, Technical Support Manager for the UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science, said.
“Students won’t find a better learning experience. They are forced to work like engineers do in the real world by supervising each other and working together as a team on a high-stress project, Fletcher said.
As part of this competition each team is required to submit a technical report for review by the SAE judging body documenting the design of their vehicle. According to Fletcher, students must abide by strict regulations during the design process and while competing.
“The competitions are like mini-NASCAR events. All the teams create makeshift workshops by the track for their vehicles. Students work around the clock to tinker and fix their cars. It’s very intense experience,” Fletcher said.
“Our students held their own in this year’s competitions. I’m very proud of them.” They were competing with much bigger schools with more resources, so any time you get a top 30 finish, I know we’re doing something right,” he continued.
The students are already preparing for next year’s competition.
“This year was a very important year for UTC at Mini Baja SAE competitions. With the addition of the SAE Club team, UTC competed with multiple cars at multiple events,” Emily Stark, UTC engineering student and member of the Raging Mocs, said.
“Many valuable lessons were learned this year, and we’re more excited than ever before to start working on the next competition,” she said. “This coming year will be the first year to have rising seniors that have competed previously. Armed with the knowledge of previous experience, we hope to climb to higher heights than ever before.”