New Mexico Tech mechanical engineering students recently returned from an intercollegiate design contest, competing against teams from universities from all over the world in the design of off-road vehicles. The Tech SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Baja Team returned from a competition in Cookeville, Tenn.,in mid-May that hosted 91 collegiate teams and involved four days of technical inspections, design presentations, dynamic events and an overall endurance race. The Tech team placed 43rd overall.

University teams spend the academic year designing and fabricating a rugged, single-seat, off-road recreational vehicle for a nonprofessional weekend off-road enthusiast. The teams come together at the end of the year to present their designs and compete against other universities.

According to Hollis Dinwiddie, an engineering science instructor and Tech’s SAE Baja team advisor, students put forth a “tremendous amount of effort” for the competition, which featured Tech’s first-ever 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

“As always, it was a grueling test of perseverance, but the team held together and despite setbacks pulled together and made it through,” he said.

During the SAE Baja’s Endurance Race, the team experienced several setbacks, including a broken throttle cable, burnt CVT (continuously variable transmission) belt, driveshaft failure, broken transmission shaft, damaged front suspension and another broken transmission shaft. At one point, they even rebuilt a transmission shaft and re-fielded the car, Dinwiddie said.

“Despite the setbacks the team never gave up and persevered to keep getting the car back into the race,” he said.“The team performed well under very stressful conditions. Although they did not take home the gold, they worked extremely hard and represented their school with a professional and competitive die-hard attitude.”

Tech’s SAE Baja competition team members: Brock Williams (team lead), Sean Harrington, Caleb Vigil, Tristen James, Darren Marcelino, Michael Taylor, Daniel Guzman, and Quinten Wood. Four volunteer members assisted the team: Michael Lucero, William Jackson, James Sandusky, and Zachary Hughes. Team members who were unable to make it to the event but were part of the effort to get the Tech car ready for competition were: Darby Stirrup, Hunter Belcher, Brandon Pinon, Michael Prothero, and Patrocinio Flores.

In Static Events, the team placed 31st in Sales Presentation, 67th in the Cost Event, and 19th in Design. In Dynamic Events, the team placed 54th in Acceleration; 23rd in the Tractor Pull, and 41st in Suspension and Traction. In the Endurance Race, drivers Brock Williams and Caleb Vigil, went 13 laps for 46th place.

Katie Bauer, NMT Communications