Auburn University kicks off Baja SAE North American racing season
More than 1,300 college students representing nearly 100 teams from around the globe – as far as India, Mexico and Egypt – traveled to the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) Pavement Test Track facility in Opelika to compete in the Baja SAE Auburn North American racing competition on April 9-12. This engineering event is sanctioned by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and is considered Baja SAE’s most rugged of all its collegiate design competitions.
This was the fourth time for Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to host the four-day competition, which combined static and dynamic racing events, including an endurance race sponsored by Honda. The off-road track offered plenty of rough terrain and challenging obstacles for all drivers, according to Peter Jones, professor of mechanical engineering and the competition’s organizer.
"This competition allows bright engineering students to fabricate a real working prototype vehicle and then test the design and performance of this machine on a course constructed to present extreme conditions," Jones said.
Auburn earned a sixth-place finish overall, with The University of Michigan team placing first, and Cornell and Oregon State placing second and third, respectively. California State Polytechnic University – Pomona completed 35 laps, three laps ahead of the nearest competitor, the University of Michigan, to win the endurance race with Georgia Southern University finishing third.
Overall competition rankings were determined by each competitor’s combined scoring from static events, which included a business presentation, design evaluation and manufacturing cost assessment, along with dynamic events in acceleration, hill climb, maneuverability and suspension. The event concluded with four hours of wheel-to-wheel racing of all teams on a two-mile course littered with hairpin curves, severe drop-offs, sand traps, jagged rocks, muddy trenches and Jersey barriers.
The Baja SAE series gives students the unique opportunity to work on a project team much like in a real working environment, completing assignments in cost estimating, design, fabrication, testing and troubleshooting. Students are challenged to manage real-life priorities and to learn and use new skills that may be applied during and after the competition. The program also provides students with valuable networking opportunities with sponsors interested in recruiting from this group of future engineers and business professionals.
Jeremy Croom, a senior in mechanical engineering at Auburn and War Eagle Motorsports captain and endurance driver, said his involvement with the competition helped him secure a position following graduation with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Florida.
"We get this incredible opportunity to drive wheel-to-wheel with other competitors from all over the world. Even better, my participation helped me to secure a job after I graduate," Croom said. "The recruiter liked my involvement with this event. It demonstrated my commitment to the team, along with the knowledge and skills I acquired during this experience."
Auburn’s event was the first of three North American Baja SAE competitions being held during the 2015 racing season. Other races will take place in Maryland from May 7-10 and Oregon from May 27-30, with Auburn’s team competing at both. War Eagle Motorsports anticipates hosting the Baja SAE competition in 2018.
By Gail Riese
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