As 2017 wraps up, the team is pushing to raise $15,000 to cover the cost of attending three competitions this season. Please consider donating!
At Baja Kansas 2017, after the endurance race had ended and we were about to leave to head back to Rochester, I gave everyone on the team a chance to say something about the Baja season or team. Knowing it was Prof. Gracewski’s last season as the primary advisor to the team, I absolutely wanted to give both Prof. Muir and her a chance to say something. As she spoke, you could see the sadness in everyone’s eyes, as her “mini-speech” was very emotional, and I will never forget how proud she was of us that day, having finished in one of the best placements in the history of UR Baja SAE.
Kevin Bonko (Mechanical Engineering, ’17)
She gave us so much important advice and guidance for sure. We relied on her so much for design validation, and that really enabled us to build our own confidence. Without her assurance, a lot of what we tried would’ve felt like a shot in the dark, even if it were good.
Peter Fiala (Optical Engineering, ’17)
There are innumerable anecdotes I could share regarding my time with Professor Gracewski–be it entertaining, inspiring, or somewhere in between. One of her qualities that struck me more times than I can possibly hope to write about was how candid she was with her students and mentees. Professor Gracewski sought for each and every individual she helped to understand the engineering decisions they made, the math behind a complicated derivation, or even the consequence of specific actions. This meant she subjected students to questioning that some might relate more to an interrogation, having no fear of being honest or saying when something was completely wrong. I doubt I am the first nor the last person to have been intimidated by Professor Gracewski before I had the chance to work with her closely and know her better than “the Baja Advisor.” Once I passed that barrier, however, I understood and appreciated all she did. She made me consider difficult questions and doubt my own math more often than not. Her challenges were not always easy to answer, but learning and growing are not meant to be a trivial task. It is about struggling with challenging problems, understanding the consequences of difficult decisions, and being cognizant of what you do not understand. Professor Gracewski may not have specifically taught these principles, but I understand it from how she mentored and guided me. I wish Professor Gracewski the best as she steps down from Baja Faculty Advisor, and that she can continue to have a lasting impact on people’s lives.
Alan Grier (Mechanical Engineering, ’17)
By Dylan Borruso (Optical Engineering, ’19)
This past week the UR Baja SAE team moved from the Gavett Hall shop to a new shop in Taylor Hall. The new shop occupies the combined space of the old Taylor Hall student shop and an adjacent office and storage closet. With the move, the Baja team has expanded their in-shop access to machines. Specifically, the team has acquired a verticle bandsaw, mill, and lathe. All of these machines were previously housed in the old student shop.
Early planning for the move began in the spring of 2017. Over the summer, more concrete plans were developed and meetings with the University of Rochester administration were held to determine the exact requirements of the Baja team. The plans were finalized late in the summer and construction began at the beginning of September. The final touches were finished on November 3rd. Over the next two weeks, the equipment from the Gavett Hall shop was packed into more than 40 boxes and transferred, along with all of the tables, shelves, cabinets, and toolboxes to the new Baja shop.
The new shop, with 24/7 access to machinery, will allow the Baja team to continue to reliably manufacture important components of the car in-house. The addition of the verticle bandsaw is also a huge improvement to the last shop and allows the team to fabricate plastic and aluminum components without having to cut them by hand.
By Noah Meyers (Mechanical Engineering, ’20)
The 2018 suspension on the University of Rochester Baja SAE car is currently being designed. While the geometry of the suspension was decided over the summer, some individual parts of this subsystem have never been used before, or have simply been bought stock from another company. This year, we hope to make both a custom rack and pinion assembly for steering, and a custom driveshaft based on two universal joints (u-joints).
Rack and Pinion
This year our goal was to implement butterfly steering. Butterfly steering means that the driver only has to turn the steering wheel 180º for the steering rack to travel over its entire range. Our current steering rack requires 300º of travel, so to change this, the gear attached to the steering column was made larger.
The next course of action will be to make the housing for both the gear shown and the rack which it turns.
In the recent history of the team, we have used a Polaris CV axle to transfer power from the output shaft to the wheels. Each of these shafts weighs about 8lb, and in an effort to reduce weight this year, we decided to try a different approach for this driveshaft. By modifying the suspension geometry, we can now use universal joints to connect a fixed length shaft to both the hub and the output shaft. Instead of allowing the shaft to change length (this is what a CV axle allows) we now only allow the shaft to travel in and out of the output shaft (the maximum plunge is less than 0.75”, so there is little chance of the shaft slipping out).
There are other smaller projects which will be happening as the year progresses. Some of these are briefly shown below:
Weight reduction of the hubs
This project is one that I personally worked on last year. The goal for this year is to create a hub from scratch, instead of starting with a hub for a Polaris ATV, and create the part on a CNC machine.
Design of uprights
Arguably the most complicated part of the suspension to design, the process for designing these will begin in a little over a month. They’re designed to reduce weight, while still connecting all other links of the suspension to their correct positions as determined by the suspension geometry.
Roll bar testing
Starting two years ago, the Baja car was fitted with a roll bar. This year’s car will also have a roll bar, however, the exact stiffness of this is yet to be determined. This will be determined through testing on our 2017 car and assessment of driver feedback on various roll bar thicknesses.
By Ethan Fahnestock (Physics and Astronomy, ’21)
Midnight Mayhem has me hooked
The day of competition was
Then endurance took over the evening. I’m not going to lie; the course walk intimidated me. Our team president – although possibly being overdramatic expressed concern several times that the cars wouldn’t be able to make it up the hills. The course was full of jumps, logs, mud, drops, you name it, it was there somewhere. However, once I got in the car, the fear disappeared. It was like driving go-carts on steroids. We survived the endurance race without sustaining major damages to either of the cars. After the competition, we packed up the trailer, rested, and drove back up to Rochester.
Midnight Mayhem was an opportunity to experience Baja, and what an experience it was.
By Kevin Bonko (Mechanical Engineering, ’17)
Why do we stay up into the wee hours of the morning to paint a couple pieces of welded steel? Why do we drive countless hours to a dirt track in the middle of nowhere? Why do we wake up at 5:00AM on a Saturday morning to go to an off-road track at RIT? Because racecar. We build a racecar. This is a point that many of us forget, myself included. Yes, we are an engineering club. Yes, we build an off-road vehicle capable of climbing stairs. But at the end of the day, we build a racecar.
At the beginning of my presidency, I was looking at how to revamp our process for recruiting new members. Countless hours were spent on updating advertising material and posters, inserting wording that described what we do as a club. “We design, manufacture, test, and compete with a single-seater off-road vehicle” is the punchline I generally settled on. However, by the constant reminder of one of my teammates Laurence Lohman, “dude we build a RACECAR.” As a club, UR Baja SAE ultimately builds an off-road racecar, and I can never be so grateful for what this club has done for me.
I joined this team as a timid freshman looking to get some practical engineering experience under my belt. I knew how to use a screwdriver and a drill, but not much else. Within a few weeks, I was knees deep in changing engines on-and-off cars, replacing brake calipers, and ultimately rebuilding a vehicle. If you told me as a freshman that I would be elected as president of the best club at the University of Rochester, I would have shrugged my shoulders and laughed at you. Three years later, I find myself walking into a conference room, being told that I was elected as the next president.
During elections, I emphasize to each of the those nominated that I do not want to hear what Baja has done for you, but for what you have done for Baja. This racecar-building club has taken time I did not know I had and formed me into the mechanical engineer and person that I am today. I have met people that will forever shape how I look at the world around me and how I approach challenges. I learned that it takes a team to build this thing that is a Baja vehicle, no matter how talented a particular person or people are. This club, through all of the experiences and people I have met, defines who I am today.
Building a racecar should be a mandatory course for all mechanical engineers, not only for its practical applications, but for working in this team environment. There is not another team, organization, or club on this campus that eats dinner together every Friday as well as lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. I know I can call any of my teammates, my family, at 3:00AM to pick me up from the airport, and those people will not only show up to pick me up but in a way that is obnoxious as possible for the sake of being obnoxious (you can use your imagination here). Build a racecar, make a family. Thank you UR Baja.
By Stephanie Bandoski ( Neuroscience, ’17)
As a non-engineering student, what intrigued me the most about Baja SAE was the racing. From the little bit of autocross and off-roading I had done in the past, I knew that to drive well, there was a lot more to it than just fun and games. Don’t believe me? Take a look at The Physics of Racing by Brian Beckman, and that only touches upon 2d stuff! Never mind jumps, rocks, mud or any other obstacle we see at Baja SAE competitions.
And why is racing so important to us as a team? Racing is essentially the application of all the designs that went into the car which took the team over half a year to build. It’s the application and use of those designs that prove whether or not the design and manufacture was effective. Without testing how our suspension elements handle going over logs, how do we know what to improve upon next year? Answer is, we don’t.
So, this year, we were so confident in our designs we chose to devote some time to driver training. We didn’t want the limiting factor at competitions to be our drivers’ abilities, but rather be limited by our actual engineering abilities. And it’s amazing how much understanding of physics and engineering was needed in order to drive our car to its limits! It is naive the think that the engineering process and therefore Baja SAE stops at just the manufacture of our car. In order to go full circle and know what to change next year, our knowledge has to extend into the physics of racing.
By Noah Meyers (Mechanical Engineering, ’20)
When I joined the UR Baja team earlier this year, I knew how to use a drill, and I had held a ratchet maybe once or twice before in my life. Within a few weeks, I learned how to use many of the tools our team could access and had begun work on design concepts in SolidWorks. For comparison, I will only be learning CAD software in the classroom this summer, and I don’t know anyone else who would teach me how to use an angle grinder outside of the team. It’s safe to say I’m hooked on Baja, but how did I get so addicted?
When I was at the club activities fair in the fall, I saw a car which I assumed was black underneath all the mud on it. This piqued my interests immediately; I have always had a fascination with cars, but I also saw that this was no ordinary car. When I got to their booth, I learned that students on campus receive an engine, and build the rest so it could compete in off- road racing; I wrote my name on the email list immediately.
Arguably the main reason I have stayed on the team is the amount of practical learning there is when working on a car. I have been heavily involved in the design process for this year’s new car, and I have seen how many parts need to come together for the car to roll, let alone perform well, and I’ve designed some of them myself. Working under the project team lead for suspension, I started work on reducing the weight of our rear hubs. Ultimately that design is not ready for this year’s competition, but I will most certainly be back to finish what I have started.
Even as a new member on the team, I have seen that you need communication between everyone if you want a successful car. You can’t build a car where a shock gets welded to the frame but there is no frame member to transmit the force of the car. If there is a lack of communication between the frame and suspension teams, this could very easily happen, and the results could be catastrophic. What was incredible to a novice like me was that I was still in this integrated mesh of discussion. I attended design board meetings to learn more about the car, and it has truly fascinated me to see everything coming together on time, despite the inevitable hiccups (like the new hubs breaking two weeks before competition). In addition, everyone on the team wants you to learn, they don’t want to be the only ones carrying the weight of design and assembly. This selflessness is what I think makes us an excellent team, because reaching out to the newer members like me will help to only strengthen the team in the long run, and build more connections moving forward.
Competition has been sold to me as the end goal of all the progress we make from year to year. I have only gone to Midnight Mayhem so far, which is not an official competition, instead it’s geared more towards increased freshmen participation on our team. What I do know about official competitions is that we are a top tier team. With all the work we put into the car during the year, between our design, assembly, and post-assembly testing, we are competing amongst some of the best schools in the nation. I have been promised that I will enjoy competition by numerous veterans to the team, and I would hope so. It is where being a team, a communication network where everyone knows their strengths and weaknesses, can replace a flat tire quickly then send the car right back onto the endurance track, or weld an upright back together to keep our car in the mix. This is where we can show our design prowess to the judges, justifying all the decisions we have made regarding the car, and comparing the price of our car to one already in existence. All of this and so much more excites me, and I can’t wait to go to competition in California in less than a week.
This year has been a fantastic freshman year for me, and I owe most of that to the UR Baja team. I have learned valuable career skills not because I had to, but because they were made fun and useful. Not only that, but I learned these traits from people who not too long ago were in my shoes, and now they oversee the design and production of the car. To these people, I want to say thank you for giving me the knowledge I now have, and the knowledge I will continue to absorb in my time on the team. I would truly consider this year and the ones proceeding to be the best of my life thanks to this team.
By Wendy Snyder (Mechanical Engineering, ’17)
The Baja manufacturing season is typically a full semester of chaos. There are many long days in the shop, numerous late nights, and often a last-minute scramble to finish the car in time for the first competition. At the start of this school year, the team was looking forward to the benefit of having both competitions after the end of the semester, providing ample time for tuning and testing after the car was complete. As we all know too well, nothing changes like plans. After a hectic registration day, it was decided to attend the competition in California on April 27-30th. In addition to many other challenges introduced by attending a competition across the country, the timeline for completing the car was suddenly shortened by an entire month.
While daunting, the accelerated timeline motivated the team. We managed to meet our goal for completing the chassis and by the date we had set as a goal to have a running car, we had a nearly complete car. The hard work of team members to complete the car on schedule left us with almost an entire month to test, tune and tweak the car prior to competition. Testing and tuning is an important step in the engineering design cycle, one that our team has often struggled to complete in past years due to time and resource constraints.
With the car complete, we started listing out different aspects of our vehicle that we could measure and test to verify and validate our design and analysis. We started simple, measuring basic properties like vehicle weight and ride height. In response to the difficulties we experienced with our brake system last year, we looked to validate the analytical model we used for brake design this year. To do this, we took a few days to add a set of pressure gauges into the brake circuits to measure the pressure as a function of input force.
With the help of recent alumni Matt Isbell and our sponsor SimuTech Corp., we were able to get our Hall effect sensors working to collect data on our CVT shift curve. Using the data, we then adjusted our tuning settings to achieve the ideal shift curve determined by our model. During testing, we also measured the vehicle’s top speed using a radar gun. After determining ideal CVT settings to achieve the desired shift curve for standard driving, we moved to a hill and collected some data to see the response of the CVT in a hill climb scenario.
Once CVT settings were selected, the remaining time was spent tuning suspension to determine the optimal shock and tire pressures for different obstacles and to improve handling. Utilizing our small on-campus practice track, we drove the vehicle over tabletops, baby graves, logs, and tires. The car handled each obstacle with ease and settings were selected to obtain the smoothest traversal over all obstacles.
During our testing, we found a few components that required redesign or reinforcement. From each failure, we learned something new about the car, as well as our design and analysis. With the extra month spent testing and tuning, we had time to correct things we found that were wrong and improve what didn’t work quite as expected. All these corrections are valuable time saved at competition since we were able to catch them early and correct them before we even arrived at the site.
Of course, there are always more things to test and tune. We plan to further test in the time between the California and Kansas competitions once we have the opportunity to see how our car handles at a real competition. One main goal for this time is to use strain gauges for the first time in order to validate some of our load cases. After a year of hard work, the team is in one of the best places we have ever been as we head to competition in California. We are ready to go out, have fun, get dirty, and bring home a trophy!
By Professor Sheryl Gracewski
I have been the faculty advisor for the UR SAE Baja team for over 20 years, so I have witnessed the remarkable evolution of the team. The most obvious growth is in the number of students: currently, about 40 students make significant contributions to the team each year, whereas in the past, there have been teams with as few as 5 members. The surge in numbers has been accompanied by an increase in student diversity, including not only students from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, but also from a wider range of majors. For example, economics majors have recently helped the team excel in the Baja competition’s Sale Presentation and electrical engineering majors are developing data acquisition systems to test vehicle performance.
The Team has grown in many more ways than just increasing numbers. By necessity, the Team has refined its organizational structure to handle the additional training and logistics needed for a larger group. It is amazing that the students not only design and fabricate a Baja vehicle each year, but they also train the underclassmen, so that they can take over and be successful the next year. Each year they devise better methods for this training. For example, they have created Wiki pages and are developing training videos to archive critical information.
The Team’s design, analysis, fabrication, and overall engineering skills have also vastly improved, especially over the last several years. Such advances would not have been possible without the support of the Team’s sponsors, local industries, alumni, and the Team’s family and friends. To coordinate the larger number of students contributing to the design, they have set up the Product Data Management system and instituted various systematic methods for CADing their designs in Solidworks. In addition, their knowledge of and access to fabrication techniques has also significantly increased in recent years, with the assistance of local companies. For example, they now design their own gearbox and have it fabricated by local sponsors, whereas in the past they either purchased a gearbox or used a less robust system of chains and sprockets.
The team members, especially the team leaders, seem to have boundless enthusiasm and put in an enormous amount of time and energy into the team. It is not unusual to find 10-20 Baja members working in the shop or Baja office on a Saturday or Sunday. They begin preparing for the next year, on the way home from the last competition of the summer, as they review how well their vehicle performed and where they could improve on the design. They meet (online) weekly starting early in the summer, so they can finish most of the design in the fall semester, and complete fabrication and testing of the car before the first competition in late spring.
Working with the UR SAE Baja Team has been an amazing experience. I have witnessed not only the growth of the team, but also the advancement of the team members, from novices to team leaders and beyond. I enjoy seeing the alumni that support the team and cheer them on at competitions. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know so many outstanding students.
By Oscar Ta (Optical Engineering ‘18)
Our Baja team is in partnership with a composite company, Laird Plastics. In previous years, they have been the plastics distributor our team has received materials from. Following up this year, Laird Plastics requested us to test applications for their strongest plastic.
Their material, KyronMAX, offers mechanical properties comparable to metals. For example, KryonMAX is said to have a higher strength-to-weight ratio than steel, which can save volume on design.
We started to test the material by cutting a steering wheel out of a 6’’ by 11’’ sheet of the composite.
Amazingly, the material withstood the heat from a 0.75’’ diameter bit, spinning at 10000rpm on a CNC router. Noticing the unexpected resilience of the material, we raised the idea of testing the material under more stressful conditions.
Natural curiosity pushed us to wonder how it would break. Our next step is to test the material with a part under more stressful conditions than a simple steering wheel. The rear caliper mounting plate on the gearbox is a perfect candidate because it must withstand constant vibration.
A full-fledged report will be written from our Baja team. Hopefully, the results of this partnership will spearhead future company partnerships from our team.
By Laurence Lohman (Chemical Engineering, ‘17)
Enzo Ferrari once said “what’s behind you doesn’t matter”, and after almost four years with the Baja team at UR, it does seem almost futile to condense my experiences into a single article. However, Enzo also said that “aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines”, so his advice may fail occasionally. After four years, seven competitions (with two more coming up), and thousands of hours in the shop, I would like to look back at it all.
I arrived at UR as a freshman with few ideas about what to do with myself. I knew that I wanted to learn about cars, and I also had a compulsion to build things; Baja provided an excellent opportunity to do both. For the first few weekends, I showed up for the car, but then I began to show up for the people. Through the older team members, I learned more than I had ever thought possible. I gained an understanding of best practices for design and fabrication and a new mindset for solving problems. I also learned a variety of new skills that are unknown to most students. These range from SolidWorks and TIG welding to heat treating suspension links in a household oven and living in the basement of Hopeman for a few days before competition. Through all of this, the team fueled my curiosity, motivation, and passion for engineering and racing.
No discussion of Baja would be complete without mentioning competitions, which may be the most memorable parts of my experience here. I was introduced to competition as a freshman at Midnight Mayhem, which reinforced my enthusiasm for the team. As I watched engines being repaired with a hair tie and the spring from a pair of vise grips, I knew that I wanted to learn and contribute as much as I could. Over the next few years, I attended competitions across the country, which provided the most fun and least sleep of my life. I say this despite the trials that competition threw at us; the lowest point was probably 26 hours of nonstop effort to get the brakes working in Tennessee last spring. However, competitions are the culmination of months (if not years) of effort, and seeing the car in action is worth all the late nights and roadblocks. This sense of validation is what keeps us coming back for more, trying to shave ounces from the car and seconds from our lap times.
The Baja team has always been passionate about what we do, but recently, we have become even more driven to be the best. A common characteristic of high-level racing drivers, mountaineers, and fighter pilots is a combination of audacity and humility. To succeed in these pursuits, one must sincerely believe that they are the best, and that they can perform flawlessly under immense pressure. However, one must also recognize that they have little control over the forces around them, and that everything can fail under the best conditions. I believe that successful racing teams must also have these qualities. We must believe in our ability to compete with the top teams; Baja teams do not accidentally finish in the top ten. We must also realize that the difference between first place and ‘Did Not Finish’ can be a single loose bolt or flat tire, and although everything may go wrong, we need to adapt and plan for it. To become a winning team, we must think like a winning team, which we are finally starting to do.
Looking back at my time with Baja, I have countless reasons to thank the team. I have made lifelong friends and gained skills that I would never have otherwise. Together, we have traveled across the country and learned an incredible amount about design, manufacturing, and racing. I think of the team as family, which is helpful because I have probably spent as much time with them as with my actual family over the past few years. More than anything else, I have never met a more committed, motivated, and determined group of people, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to be a part of the team. Thank you.
By Alan Grier (Mechanical Engineering, ‘17)
For this year’s Baja SAE competitions, the UR Baja team is aiming high: be number one! This may be a lofty aspiration for us, but we don’t just want to be top 20, or even top 10; who doesn’t want to be the best? As the current incarnation of the team grows, gathers more sponsors and resources, and strengthens its alumni network, we have much of what it takes to have the top vehicle at competition. Our competition standings are generally improving, and vehicle performance is also on an upward trend. At least on the design engineering end of things, much of what is enabling our success and improvement is design stability. After numerous cycles of iteration, many of the major vehicle components are changing little from year to year.
After the team was rekindled, the vehicles built took a myriad of forms and changed significantly from year to year. Eventually, the Water Event was dropped from competitions, allowing for major design changes since the Baja cars no longer needed to be amphibious. Over the next several years, the team tried several different rear suspension geometries—solid axle swingarm preceding trailing arm—before settling on H-arms with control links. Initially adopted in the 2015 season, we are now in our third year of the setup. Front suspension geometry has also undergone few changes over the past few years, only requiring minor adjustments due to changes in ride height and wheelbase.
But do not think this is stagnation in our engineering and innovation, not needing to spend great amounts of time designing suspension geometry from scratch has allowed us to research and pursue other areas for improvement! Last year we began experimenting with a sway-bar to help decrease the vehicle’s turning radius and generally improve maneuverability. While there were a few hiccups at first, we identified the problems have devised solutions for this year. This will be a huge benefit for the Maneuverability Event and the Endurance Race.
And although I am highlighting suspension, the other project teams have had similar experiences. We are at a point where we can focus on “the little things”: refining the designs we currently have, dropping weight from overdesigned components, finding cheaper and faster manufacturing methods, and ultimately doing more long-term research. A few projects we’re currently working on are engineering our own brake components (calipers specifically), switching to aluminum for certain tie rods and possibly control arms, and researching an injection moldable carbon-composite that Laird Plastics—a local sponsor—has given us.
Some projects—namely aluminum tie rods—are on a path to be implemented in the current year’s vehicle, while others are still years away from implementation on the vehicle. The time we have saved has enabled us to place a larger emphasis on longer-term research projects and ensure that designs are truly well-engineered before seeing use on a competition vehicle. And given our team’s current trajectory, we will continue only to rise in the rankings and be number one. Meliora.
By Oscar Ta (Optical Engineering, ’18)
Brakes: Calculations & Part Selection
To stop the rotors is to stop the rotations of the wheels; this is our starting point to backtrace forces to the input force from a driver’s heel. These forces are related to the dimensions of brake components by multiple formulae. To select brake components, we adjust these dimensions to propagate calculations for braking force in the rear and front braking systems. The braking system was designed to these criteria:
1) 60%:40% front-to-rear static braking force distribution
2) contains a biasing mechanism to create a 35%:65% front-to-rear dynamic braking force distribution.
Combined Bias Bar & Brake Pedal
The brake pedal is designed with a pedal ratio of 7.2, which higher than that of the previous year’s manufactured pedal. For packaging efficiency, we modify last year’s design to achieve this higher pedal ratio for the same length pedal. Our modification places the pivot point at a higher position than the output links to the master cylinder. In addition, our output link will have a built-in biasing mechanism. This built-in mechanism consists of a fixed bearing within the pedal and a rotating bolt connected to links, which connect to the master cylinders.
Segmented Steering Column
To increase comfort and decrease egress time, we plan to implement a segmented steering column. A top-segment will be connected to a bottom-segment via a universal joint with yokes at the junction. The top-half of the steering column is currently in design with the steering wheel with the Laird Plastic steering wheel (see below). The bottom-half is also currently in design while selecting rack-and-pinion placement. Currently, we are working on steering effort calculations.
Custom Rear Brake Caliper
As an experimental project for future years, we plan to custom-make calipers. To start, we model the selected rear caliper in CAD. Then it is modified for specific dimensions, such as mounting points, rotor spacing, and bleeding nipple placement. We will determine manufacturability in our next procedure.
Laird Plastic Research
In partnership with Laird Plastics, we plan to manufacture a steering wheel to compare an experimental plastic material versus a steering wheel made of conventional metal. The experimental plastic is projected to have better strength-to-weight as steel. A butterfly steering wheel was designed in CAD and was tested in a preliminary FEA simulation. With the steering effort calculations, we plan to refine our FEA simulation. The next step is to manufacture the steering wheel samples for testing.
By Scott Saucier (Political Science and Economics, ’18)
Baja SAE is well known among the college engineering community. However, outside of that group, it remains a mystery for most. I am interested in business, politics, and economics, so to most, it does not make sense that I participate in Baja. For that reason, when I talk about Baja — which I do a lot — people either forget I am not an engineer or ask me why I am not. My response is generally along the lines of “I don’t need to be an engineer to be a part of Baja” or “I don’t want to be an engineer. I just want to do Baja.” Most people who participate in Baja see it as a practical application of engineering theory and nothing more. While it is, indeed, an application of engineering theory, it is also much more.
As a double social science major, I find a great deal of satisfaction in my participation in Baja. For one, I have been able to explore my interest in working on cars and racing, both of which are passions of mine but irrelevant to my majors. Is Baja just a hobby for me? Absolutely not. While I joined Baja because I wanted to pursue my passions, it has become an incredibly useful tool to further my education and future career prospects. I have moved up through the ranks rather quickly, becoming business manager as a sophomore. In title alone, being the business manager for a Baja team will be useful in a job interview. On top of that, I have learned a great deal. I am far more capable working on a team, more adept at research and organization, and I have learned how to work with business professionals in the real world environment when seeking sponsorships. Without Baja, I would be stuck living out my college days just working through one economic model after another, just to get a degree in something that sounds relevant. Now I get to do that and work with people as if I am an associate in a real world business, an analog to engineers realistically applying their theories through Baja.
In the end, I put a great deal of work into Baja and I have hardly even contributed to any design. I let the engineers take care of that. What I am able to do is work on our cars. I get to fabricate, build, and repair parts of the cars. With the knowledge I have collected by working closely with a team of engineers, I have learned enough about engineering to the extent that I am able to contribute to relevant discussions about our cars. These contributions I have mentioned come more from my own diverse interests than what my majors say I should be doing. Let’s say, for instance, that I had zero interest in the cars. We can say that I never touch the cars or participate in shop hours. I would probably be less effective at my job, but I would still be able to contribute a great deal to the team. I am able to budget and put in orders. I am able to work with sponsors. I am able to help the team run as effectively as possible. Figuring in the passion I have for our cars and competition, I am able to contribute a unique skill set to my Baja team.
As I said, I have never designed anything. I am not an engineer, but I am a relevant and impactful member of the team. Sure, it may take a bit more explaining to convince a potential employer that Baja sets me apart from other applicants, but that does not mean I will not get that point across in the end. In fact, I would say Baja sets me apart from those in my areas of study while my areas of study set me apart from the plethora of engineers in Baja, both to my benefit. In the end, my major does not have any impact on my ability to Baja.