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Clarkson Mini-baja Finishes In Second Place In Regional Collegiate Competition

Clarkson University’s Mini-Baja Team finished in fourth place overall out of more than 40 teams competing in the 18th annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Mini-Baja East Competition held in Montreal earlier this month.

“The team placed well in all the categories, including finishing second place in the water maneuverability event,” said Steven Yurgartis, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering and team advisor. “Overall it was a great race for the team.”

In its history, Clarkson’s Mini-Baja has never finished outside of the top-15 in the Eastern regional competition that usually attracts 40-50 entrants. The team has also taken multiple top-places honors with over five finishes in the top-five.

To compete in the Mini-Baja competition, student teams must design and build an all-terrain, amphibious vehicle that will be competitive in a race environment. The team must adhere to strict SAE construction and financial guidelines.

During the three-day competition, the vehicles maneuvered over rough terrain and through thick mud, propelled themselves through deep water, and climbed steep hills as they were tested for handling and maneuverability, acceleration, endurance and water mobility. Teams were also evaluated on written and oral presentations by a panel of judges that included engineering and vehicle development experts from the automotive and off-highway vehicle industry. Also, the students had to submit detailed safety, design, and cost reports for review prior to the competition.

“This year our team prepared for the competition with a new design ideology: to build the car for the race,” said Clarkson graduating senior and team leader Eric Franz.  “The Montreal course is known for hills, rocks, mud and its ability to destroy cars. We built the car with durability in mind and our strategy paid off.”

The Clarkson students designed the vehicle to combat the tough challenges presented by the Montreal course by building a lighter car and sacrificing a few miles per hour of top speed in an effort to make the car climb faster and accelerate more quickly. Along with this, the team redesigned other major subsystems such as suspension and flotation, in both cases working to make the car more agile at competition.

Mini-Baja is part of Clarkson University's SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program, which promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication, and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork, and communication skills.

The SPEED program is one of the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives promoting the “Vision of a Clarkson Education” through experiential learning by hands-on application of academic theory to real-world problems. SPEED receives its primary financial support from Alcoa, Corning, Eastman Kodak, the General Electric Fund, and Procter & Gamble and was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award and the 2002 Corporate and Foundation Alliance Award for its exceptional contributions to improving undergraduate engineering education.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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