SAE “Mini-Baja” competition
March 23, 2011 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
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The Society of Automotive Engineers will take their best team and have them compete in an intercollegiate design competition May 24 at Pittsburg, Kansas.
The contest is called the "Mini Baja" Competition and it originates from a race in Mexico called the Baja 1000. In the Baja 1000, competitors build large version of the "Baja" vehicles and race for 1,000 miles. For this competition smaller versions of the "Baja" vehicles are required and the race is only four hours long.
The challenge is building and designing a "Mini Baja" vehicle, which should be capable of handling rough terrain, withstanding a four-hour endurance event and must be aesthetically pleasing. The team is responsible for all the designing aspects of the go-cart.
Sergio Maldonado, SAE president and senior mechanical engineering major, works with the Mini-Baja team and is helping with the design of the vehicle. He is eager to put the team's skills and talent up for demonstration.
"I think we're heading for top 40, and that will be in the nation," Maldonado said. "We set the bar right there. Taking the fact, that there are about 120 universities competing, not only nationally, but internationally, it's still pretty good."
SAE competes against an array of teams from various parts of Latin America and Canada.
"Last year, we had a university from Bolivia," Maldonado said. "I don't know how they traveled all the way to Washington State, but that's just an example of the variety of students and universities that participate."
UTEP has had funding to compete just once and won the competition in 1985. SAE members feel that this pressure will only help them work harder.
"I think the pressure we have is a good thing," Maldonado said. "Because we're representing something, we're not just going for ourselves. We're representing the school's name. that's our pressure to do a good job."
Arturo Quijano, captain of the team and senior mechanical engineering major, is responsible for the project and the overall design of the vehicle.
Quijano said the pressure on the team comes from trying to make up for the times that UTEP had not competed.
"It was such a long time ago that UTEP won," Quijano said. "They were a very successful team, but then they stopped participating for a very long time and didn't start up again until the early 2000s and by then UTEP was way out of the loop."
Javier Motta, mechanical engineering graduate student and team advisor, feels the team has been improving over the years as support from the engineering department continues to grow.
"We definitely have a better chance because this time around we have more support from the department," Motta said. "The first time we competed we didn't have our vehicle finished. Then the second year we did better, and little by little we've been so much better."
Quijano feels that regardless of the team not winning previous competitions, there has been major improvement. He said the team's chances are better this year because they now have an advisor and more support.
"It's been progressively succeeding. Three years ago we finally had a car able to compete, and again the next year," Quijano said. "We're motivated through pressure."
Maldonado and Quijano said that SAE is always open to new members. The team consists of 12 students classified as juniors, seniors and a few sophomores.
"Right now, UTEP has open access to the team," Quijano said. "If you show up and join the Society of Automotive Engineers and you express an interest in wanting to participate in the team in your spare time, then you're on the team. Basically we're looking for people who will commit to the team."
Maldonado said the competition is a great opportunity for the team members to network with companies looking to employ engineering majors.
"Many companies are being represented there. You see Ford, Hyundai, a lot of GM representatives, a lot of companies looking for new students with new ideas for designs," Maldonado said. "So not only is the competition good for the school, it's also a nice gateway for job opportunities for the teams and their members."
The judges in the competition look for a unique design, an economically efficient car. Every vehicle has to pass various inspections.
"Sometimes only 80 universities out of 120 are able to participate," Maldonado said. "Only because the other 40 did not pass the inspections."
The competition is held every year all over the United States. This year, the Mini Baja competition will be in Kansas, and the winning team will get scholarships and funding for their university.
"The most challenging part is that the rules are really constricting," Quijano said. "It's hard to make a vehicle that can excel in all areas. So you have to make a vehicle that will compromise to all the rules and at the same time pushing the limits on the rules to be innovative, new and interesting."
Candice Marlene Duran may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally posted on www.utepprospector.com.