Baja SAE unveils vehicle, eyes events in Alabama, Oregon

April 3, 2015


Chris Plunkett, a junior in biomedical engineering, is strapped in to test drive the Baja SAE all-terrain vehicle.

When Alycia Abbott ’16 was a freshman member of Baja SAE two years ago, the team was still finishing its off-road vehicle the same morning they departed for a competition in Tennessee.

“We finished, put it in the truck, and drove away,” Abbott recalled.

Not this year.

For the second year in a row, the team was ready in advance, rolling out their finished vehicle on Friday—nearly a  week ahead of their departure next weekend for a competition in Auburn, Ala.  This will give team members time to test drive the vehicle before they depart, and hopefully identify and remedy any last-minute mechanical glitches before they enter competition.


In photo above, Gilead Biggie '18 of MechE and ECE (right) and David Gonzalez, a junior in ECE, make some final adjustments. Below, James Powers, a senior in MechE and the team's chief mechanic, fires up the engine.


"We were hoping to be ready a little sooner,” explained Abbott, a biomedical engineering major who is now the club president. “We encountered some setbacks with our design and manufacturing,  but this is  still much faster than we typically finish the car.”

Abbott attributes this to the early start by a “very dedicated” design team that began its work last summer, communicating by Skype.

The club’s size has increased about fourfold the last couple of years to 25 to 30 active members, Abbott noted. As a result – with more members sharing the costs – the team will compete in two competitions this year. In addition to Auburn, the team will travel to Portland, Oregon at the end of May.

Only five of the team members are seniors, she added, so a solid core of experienced undergrads will be back next year.


At the Baja SAE poster session, Adalberto Perez (below), a senior in Mechanical Engineering and the team's chief engineer, explains features of this year's vehicle to Asst. Prof. Jonathan Ellis and Department Administrator Jill Morris.


The unveiling of the car on Friday was also an opportunity for members to rehearse the poster session that is an important part of Baja SAE competitions, giving students an opportunity to explain the technical modifications and design features that were incorporated in this year’s vehicle.

For example:

The rear roll hoop is now slanted at 15 degrees, rather than 10, to improve driver ergonomics.

Changes in the master cylinder mounting have relieved a moment – or torque – that caused the brake pedal to bend.

Gearbox dimensions and mass were reduced to allow for more compact rear bracing.

The upright control arm was redesigned to prevent collisions with the wheel at maximum turning.


It's 'thumbs up' as Plunkett does a test drive around Taylor Hall. Afterwards, team members gathered for a portrait.