A Case School of Engineering team built a car from the ground up. They had a dune buggy frame and a Briggs and Stratton engine. The rest was left to their imagination: to create a car that would compete against teams around the country for the Society of Automotive Engineering-sponsored Baja car race in Rochester, N.Y.
The team took 14 student members as well as three alumni to the four-day event, held last month.
A full year of work came down to four days but it is worth the effort, according to Jim Drake, the Baja adviser.
“Regardless of where the team places at the event, they always win because they challenge themselves and apply their engineering and manufacturing skills,” he added.
This was the ninth straight year for the university, and Baja alumni understand the importance of this extra-curricular activity.
As part of the competition, students had to design the entire car and had to understand automotive dynamics.
But the highpoint of the year culminates in a competition to test not only the team’s design but the wits of its drivers.
The competition included five dynamic events: a hill climb, acceleration, water maneuverability, land maneuverability and suspension and traction. The capstone event was the endurance race on the last day of the competition.
The team was captained by Rodney Nelson, who also had the experience of being the first driver of a four-hour endurance course fraught with water and land challenges.
In his words, Nelson describes the thrills of his experiences:
“I was the first driver to race and was nervous. The day before, I drove for the water maneuverability event. This played to my advantage because the same water obstacle was a part of the endurance race so I knew what to expect in terms of how our car entered and exited the water.
“This was our first experience in a competition that required floatation and propulsion through water.
“I had been in the car since 8:30 a.m. and now the competition had come down to this, a four-hour race that I had never before experienced. I knew our car was built for endurance given its simple design and rugged components.
“The course was monstrous as far as Baja courses are concerned with lots of elevation changes and the back part of the track traversed through a tight course in the woods. The all dirt track had jumps that some of the faster cars were getting three feet off air.
“Our average speed was probably around 25-30 m.p.h.
“Just before I finished my last lap before changing drivers at hour two of four, the car began running slowly.
“When I took it into the pit, we noticed the fenders had vibrated loose and had been riding on the tires for the last lap or so. We reattached them and sent out our second driver.
“With more drivetrain troubles, we eventually had to change our CVT belt and take one of the fenders off. Our second driver only got in three laps in the last two hours.
“We didn't get any practice on that course before the race, but we practice at a racetrack in Medina.
“We look to make our car lighter and faster for next year's competition.”
In addition to Nelson, team members were: Ryan Miller, business manager and brake design; Tim Burns, suspension design; Elliott Sting, drive train design; Tom Glem, solid modeling and design; Kevin Barry, welder and frame design; Daniel Levy, flotation design; Andrew Smith, graduate advisor and welder; and Nick Badger, CNC Manufacturing. Other members include Keith Angelino, Tim Coan, Jeremy Couch, Rob Daniels, Dane Pittock, Austin Schmidt and Jacob Shackelford.
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