By Michael Macfarlane (Mechanical Engineering, ’17)
I joined the team a year ago, as a junior who had recently switched majors from Biomedical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering. During my time with the team, I have attended three competitions and became the elected Suspension Project Team Lead (PTL). It is a lot to take in, but I have definitely learned and grown during this period. At the time of writing, I have no idea what my colleagues are writing about, though I am fairly certain they are focusing more on the technical side of things or perhaps simply recounting the good times we all shared at the competitions (I for one certainly enjoyed every moment of both competitions). I, however, after discarding a great many drafts, ultimately settled on a topic completely different: the end goal we need to strive for, and why this goal and its associated mindset is important.
It all starts with an idea I had even before becoming a PTL, that we as a team need to believe that we can be the number one Baja team in the country, and that we must always strive towards that goal. This is not a view unique amongst this year’s leadership, as there are many others besides myself who share this sentiment. If there is anything life has taught me, it is that complacency is the swiftest route to failure. The world is ever-changing, and anyone who dares to rest and revel in the fleeting successes of the moment will be swiftly overtaken and left behind. The University of Rochester’s motto is “Meliora”, meaning ever better. It is essential that we remember the meaning of that phrase and take it to heart.
Unfortunately, it’s quite common in competitive activities for people to believe that it’s not only okay to be mediocre, but that one should be perfectly happy with mediocrity. In the case of Baja, this would mean “just having fun and learning” are acceptable end goals. While I understand the intent behind such rationale is well-meaning, I vehemently disagree with it for practical reasons. It really boils down to this: people come to college because they want to better themselves and build a successful career. I will say this much about success: it does not come to those who are satisfied with being anything less than the best. The trials in life with no lasting consequences are not without meaning, because they are a chance for us to practice for the trials that will have permanent effects on our lives. There is an old adage, “practice like you play, and play like you practice,” and I can assure you that if you do not take practice seriously, then you will never take the real games seriously either. The same concept applies to Baja, if it is not taken seriously, if it is not viewed as a game to be won, then it is failing to teach students one of the most important and underrated lessons in life: what it takes to become successful. Moreover, building up the reputation of our team has some very real benefits: additional, more lucrative sponsorships, resume recognition for graduating members seeking jobs, and ultimately “flexing our engineering muscles.”
So what does this mean for the 2016-2017 season? Simple, it is all about achieving success in the future. The only goal I have as Suspension PTL that will be accomplished during my time here is having a working suspension for competition, but there are many ideas I have that won’t be realized during my senior year. The Class of 2016 was the class that revitalized a team, that was their legacy. The Class of 2017 will be remembered as the group that laid the foundation of a winning team. By expanding our knowledge base through reaching out to alumni, by investing heavily in the recruiting and education of underclassman, and by making better use of older cars, we will create a team that will challenge the best Baja has to offer. This will be our legacy, and I can think of nothing more deserving of my effort.