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Baja Club revs its engine for upcoming competition

Baja club builds car for annual Baja SAE Competition

By Nikki Robles
On March 28, 2012

After two years of work and missing last year's competition, the UP Baja Club is gearing up for a battle in the upcoming Baja Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competition.

Club President Brett Bowers is excited to finally showcase the club's custom-made car and race it against other colleges starting May 2.

The vehicle that the team is working on has been built over the course of two years, since it was not finished in time for last year's competition.

"We always wanted to build the perfect car, and you can't do that and complete it on time," Bowers said.

The competition will kick off in Portland, where the team will showcase their vehicle at the Portland Metropolitan Expo Center.

"We have to present our car, we have to say why we designed it the way we did, how much it cost and then it gets inspected for safety purposes," sophomore and club treasurer Jimmy Anderson said.

May 4 and 5, the competition will relocate to a motor cross track in Washougal, Wash. for an acceleration race and a four-hour endurance test.

The Baja Club gives every participating member a chance to drive the vehicle during the competition, with the exception of the acceleration test.

"Anyone on the team who comes usually ends up driving during the endurance race," Anderson said. "For the acceleration test, we want to be as fast as possible, so we choose the lightest person."

UP has participated in the Baja SAE competition since 1998 and performed well during its first few years. However, the team has seen a slump due to the time commitment needed to build the car.

"A lot of times this project gets pushed back," Bowers said. "It's something that interferes with school, you have to really plan it and really strive to make time for this."

Anderson is optimistic and expects a positive outcome in this year's competition.

"We get a lot of support from the school and from sponsors. It's our desire to do well and to show our appreciation by being excellent," Anderson said.

The team has spent thousands of hours constructing the vehicle from scratch and has relied on support from sponsors such as the Chiles Foundation, Electric Steel Foundry Company (ESCO) and Don Galarneau, a 1949 UP graduate.

"The only parts that we didn't design are things like wheels, tires, brakes, the steering wheel and the engine," Anderson said. "Everything else is designed by us."

The Baja Club currently consists of 20 members and the task of designing and constructing the car is broken down by specialty and experience. However, the club still makes collective decisions by majority vote.

"It really helps that in the club there's one goal and it's to build a car," Bowers said.

Throughout the year, the club has biweekly meetings to follow up on the progress of the vehicle.

"We have design meetings where we talk about how the design is going and what we are doing," Anderson said. "Then we have other meetings where either we'll work on the car in the shop or we'll take it out to the local track and we'll drive it and test it."

Although the club has typical leadership roles for ASUP purposes, it mostly relies on "captains" to oversee the design and help the team reach the set goals.

"You coordinate the meetings, you make sure that things that have to get done like reports, registration get done. You also set a vision for what you're going to do," Anderson said.

After being in the club for three years, Bowers, one of the captains of the team, has enjoyed the experience he has gained from competing.

"It's a good way to apply the knowledge you learned in the classroom," Bowers said.

Anderson, also a captain, has been a part of the Baja Club for the past two years.

"(I like) the freedom to actually use our skills and work with our hands, and have fun engineering," Anderson said.

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