A team of Pennsylvania College of Technology students recently returned from a collegiate engineering challenge the Baja SAE with a strong finish among some of the top engineering universities in North and South America and a “Best Prepared Award” from the contest judges.
Eight students members of the college’s Society of Manufacturing Engineers student chapter spent months preparing a Baja off-road vehicle for competition at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Baja Carolina event, held April 8-11 at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research campus in Greenville, S.C.
Among 100 colleges and universities from four countries, the team finished 20th overall, with an impressive 12th-place finish in the Suspension and Traction challenge and a 14th place in the Endurance Race, which concluded the three-day series of grueling events.
During the four-hour Endurance Race, teams compete to complete as many laps as they can on a rugged track. Many cars break before reaching the final challenge; many others last only a few laps. In its five years of Baja competition, Penn College’s vehicle has consistently survived to run the Endurance Race and this year ran the entire four hours without breakdowns.
Teams’ car designs and costs were also judged, and additional dynamic events tested acceleration, land maneuverability and pulling.
The team’s “Best Prepared Award” was a surprise. Throughout the event, judges observed teams and determined winners for several special awards, announced during a banquet following the competition.
“It is nice to see all the team’s hard work pay off,” said team captain Kevin T. Werkheiser, a manufacturing engineering technology student from Northampton. “It is extremely exciting to see that a group of manufacturing students can exceed so many teams of mechanical engineers.”
The top three overall competitors at Baja SAE Carolina hailed from Canada and Brazil. Other colleges and universities competing at the event include Cornell University, fifth overall; Virginia Tech, 10th; Bucknell University, 23rd; Rochester Institute of Technology, 24th; Johns Hopkins University, 28th; Clemson University, 47th; and Auburn University, 60th.
“Upon arriving, I started to get excited about seeing how well our car would do,” Werkheiser said. “It is exciting to compete against such schools as RIT, Clemson, Auburn and other large universities. This being my third year on the team, I felt that we were well-prepared for this event.”
While maintaining their course work, the team redesigned the car’s steering geometry and built a lighter limited slip differential. The students tweaked several other areas of the car, including the drivetrain and several tubing members of the chassis, Werkheiser said.
For next year, the team will start from the ground up by manufacturing a new chassis; one chassis may be used for three years.
“We are thinking about building a side-engine car, which is completely different from what we have now,” Werkheiser said. “There is going to be a lot of time put into next year’s project, but we feel this radical design will allow us to place even higher next year.”
Other team members making the trip were Mark D. Johnson, welding and fabrication engineering technology, West Hartford, Conn.; Ellis D. Dunklebarger, manufacturing engineering technology, Port Matilda; David W. Phillips, manufacturing engineering technology, Frostburg, Md.; Daniel W. Yingling, manufacturing engineering technology, Codorus; Joshua M. Dentel, manufacturing engineering technology, Pittsburgh; Christopher M. Blaho, machine tool technology, Ambridge; and Ryan N. Vance, manufacturing engineering technology, Arnold.
Their participation in the Baja SAE Collegiate Design Series which allows them to apply the skills learned in the classroom and in laboratories to a real-world problem and to test their design against other top colleges is one the students see benefiting their futures.
“I know that this experience allows me to become a better leader,” Werkheiser said. “The experience with design and manufacturing in producing the car also helps with my knowledge in these fields.”
To learn more about manufacturing engineering technology or other academic programs offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, call 570-327-4520 or visit online .