If necessity is the mother of invention, accidents are the mother of better Bajas

By Website Administrator | May 30, 2002

Kettering's Baja Bulldogs accidentally stumbled on a better design for their 2003 SAE Mini Baja competition vehicle while testing their 2002 competition vehicle.

Kettering's Baja Bulldogs accidentally stumbled on a better design for their 2003 SAE Mini Baja competition vehicle while testing their 2002 competition vehicle. "We actually had a small mishap during testing that allowed us to find our weak spot and fix it, it's a better car for having found that weakness," said Phil Yates, team captain and a senior from Grand Blanc.

And it has given the team a better design model for their next car, said Yates, looking ahead to the 2003 competition.

The Baja Bulldogs took their accidentally improved vehicle to Milwaukee to compete in the Midwest SAE Mini Baja competition May 30 to June 6, where they are going head-to-head with 122 teams from around the United States, including some international teams.

Mini Baja consists of three regional competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Engineering students are tasked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive the severe punishment of rough terrain.

The object of the competition is to provide SAE student members with a challenging project that involves the planning and manufacturing tasks found when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market. Teams compete against one another to have their design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm.

The overall score is broken down in two main categories: static and dynamic events. The static events consist of:

  • serviceability,
  • structural integrity,
  • operator comfort,
  • appearance,
  • ride,
  • originality,
  • feasibility of mass production,
  • and a design report.

The dynamic events consist of:

  • acceleration,
  • top speed,
  • braking,
  • skid pull,
  • maneuverability,
  • hill climb,
  • and a four-hour endurance race.

All vehicles are powered by a 10-horsepower Intek Model 20 engine donated by the Briggs & Stratton Corporation.

Kettering's 10-member travel team has made significant improvements to the steering, drive train and roll cage of the frame they used at last year's Midwest Competition, Yates said. "The previous drive train had a two-stage reduction, which caused too much friction. Now we have a lot less friction," he said.

Yates feels the improvements give the Kettering vehicle a fighting chance at the Midwest competition. "It looks like our car is going to do really well this year," he said. "The big challenge is the four-hour endurance run. There are a lot of wrecks and parts breaking, it can really slow you down," said Yates. "I think we'll be able to get through it this year." A member from last year's Kettering Mini Baja team said this year's car is one of the best he's ever seen, Yates said.

With six to seven team members taking a turn at the wheel, driver fatigue won't be a problem. Yates said the team decided to use so many drivers because the majority of team members are freshmen and sophomores without a lot of experience. "We're a young team, but we have potential," he said. "They are a lot better mechanics than I thought they would be."

Captaining such a "green" team is mainly about organization, Yates said. "You do better when you're organized."

Dr. William Waldron, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, is the faculty adviser for the team. It is Waldron's first year advising the Kettering team, but not his first year in Mini Baja. He was previously the faculty adviser for the Mini Baja team at Ohio Northern University.

The Bulldog Mini Baja Team:
Phil Yates - senior from Grand Blanc, Mich.
Matt Klemmer - sophomore from Troy, Mich.
Travis Finlay - freshman from Purcellville, Va.
Kevin Marion - freshman from Lake Orion, Mich.
Alex Borshov - sophomore from Cleveland, Ohio
Chris Fabien - junior from Highland Heights, Ohio
Scott Rosium - graduated in March 2002 from Lake Forest, Minn.
Kevin Donnenwerth - senior from Reese, Mich.
Mike Knox - senior from Osseo, Mich.
Eric Hutchenruether - junior from Southfield, Mich.

Written by Dawn Hibbard
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