Robust racer takes on harsh terrain

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June 13, 2014  

The robust racer created by this year’s MSU Baja Racing team successfully completed the harsh terrain race course at the 2014 Baja SAE Collegiate Design Series competition.

Videos by SAE International show why that’s a remarkable feat:


Rock Crawl:

Hill Climb:

Chief Engineer Thomas Dionne said their racer was the first MSU car to complete the rugged course since 2010. “This race was fun and really challenging. There were trees, rocks, deep mud, three-foot concrete drops, and other jumps and obstacles over the 1.6-mile track that tests every aspect of our design,” the senior mechanical engineering major from Traverse City explained.

“Seeing the checkered flag at the end of the four-hour endurance race was the most gratifying moment because it meant that all the hard work and sacrifices paid off,” he continued. “It validated our design goal of having a robust car that could tackle the harshest of terrains. Plus it is really fun to go out head-to-head against 100 other schools and beat them in competition.”

MSU’s Baja car finished 13th in design and 26th in endurance at the Caterpillar proving grounds in Peoria, Ill., June 4-7. Overall, the team was 36th of 100 teams.Thomas Dionne was both driver and chief engineer for this year's Baja team.

Dionne said team members choose to join the Baja SAE team to learn outside the classroom setting and gain the valuable experience needed to find an internship or full-time job upon graduation.

“Personally, Baja helped me better understand the design process as taught in industry. It helped me to improve my time management and communication skills, and I got to learn machining and advanced modeling/analysis that is not taught in the classroom. Baja also gave me lifelong connections from sponsors, alumni, and current team members.”

The team revealed this year’s competition car on April 23 during a ceremony in the MSU Engineering Building. Their first competition was May 22-25 in Kansas at Pittsburg State University, where the team finished 35th overall out of 90 teams--ending up 27th in endurance and 14th in sales.

“The groundwork has been laid for a stellar 2014/2015 racing season,” Dionne added. “The members are excited to get back to work on designing and improving different areas of the vehicle especially in powertrain with a newly designed helical gearbox. Look out for us in the fall as we will be recruiting for the next generation of Michigan State Baja!”

SAE International hosts the SAE Collegiate Design Competitions to encourage around 8,000 students to go beyond textbook theory by designing, building and testing the performance of vehicles that include Aero, Baja, Formula, Formula Hybrid and snowmobiles. A variety of scholarships are available from SAE.

 The MSU Baja team includes Christopher Baldwin, Danielle Miles, Project Manager Briita Wanhala, Evan Boyers, Nate Gill, Roy Bailif, Erik Dudek, and driver and chief engineer Thomas Dionne.