Penn College Records Top-5 Finish in Global Off-Road Race

A determined group of Pennsylvania College of Technology students overcame the elements and 100-plus other schools for a strong showing in the marquee event of a renowned international competition.

Penn College placed fifth out of 107 teams in the four-hour endurance race at Baja SAE Kansas. The Society of Automotive Engineers event in Pittsburg, Kansas, required students to design and build a single-seat, off-road vehicle to survive various performance challenges.

“Things could not have gone better. I am happy for the students. All their hard work paid off,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and adviser for the college’s Baja SAE Club. “For a new car – with a new drivetrain and a new driver – and nothing broke, I’m quite pleased how things ended up.”

Members of the Penn College team proudly pose with their car after finishing fifth out of 107 schools in the four-hour endurance race at Baja SAE Kansas. From left are: John G. Upcraft, faculty adviser; Logan B. Goodhart, of Chambersburg; Mark A. Turek, of Red Lion; Jonathan R. Sutcliffe, of Orangeville; Matthew J. Nyman, of Lock Haven; Johnathan T. Capps, of North Wales; Trevor M. Clouser, of Millmont; Shujaa AlQahtani, of Saudi Arabia; Darian P. Trego, of Mifflinburg; and Clinton R. Bettner, of Beaver Falls.

The approximately 2-mile course featured rough terrain, jumps, various obstacles and plenty of mud. Severe storms that washed out most of the previous day’s events turned portions of the dirt track into a swamp. Thirteen teams were unable to complete a single lap.

“In the beginning, it was a visual challenge because all the mud would splash up on your goggles, and it would get caked on your helmet,” said team driver Johnathan T. Capps, an applied technology studies major from North Wales. “Eventually, it dried up and it ended up OK.”

More than “OK” for the Penn College contingent. The team completed 39 laps, and its best lap time of 4:55.028 was just 10 seconds off the fastest one in the race, won by the University of Michigan. Penn College’s fifth-place showing topped many well-known universities, such as Clemson, Baylor, Nebraska, Lehigh, Michigan State, Johns Hopkins, Colorado, Oklahoma, Maryland, Notre Dame, Virginia and Northwestern.

“We are very proud of our Baja team,” said David R. Cotner, dean of Penn College’s School of Industrial, Computing and Engineering Technologies. “The team’s outstanding performance speaks volumes about the skill and dedication of its members. The students and John are truly an inspiration with how hard they work and the results that they achieve.”

Halfway through the race, the Penn College car was in 31st place before steadily improving its position during the final two hours. According to Upcraft, the “slow” start was part of the team’s strategy.

“At the beginning of the race, things are rather congested. There are a lot of slower cars,” he explained. “Our goal was to run for a little bit without getting tangled up with anybody. Once things thinned out, we started pushing the car a little bit and really turned laps. You don’t want your race to end early.”

Thirty-three cars completed fewer than 10 laps.

“The longer we got into the race, the car kept taking it and got faster and faster,” said team captain Logan B. Goodhart, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Chambersburg. “Johnathan (Capps) did an amazing job driving the car. There was a pretty small field out there finishing the race.”

The students spent countless hours outside of class during the past year designing and building the car, powered by a single-cylinder, 10-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine. A new gearbox, rear suspension and continuously variable transmission helped drop the car’s weight to 335 pounds, about 60 pounds lighter than last year’s version, which finished 11th overall at Baja SAE Rochester.

“The guys put together an awesome car,” Capps said. “They came up with a car competitive with the top five in the world, which is absolutely incredible.”

In addition to Capps and Goodhart, members of the Penn College team competing at Baja SAE Kansas were manufacturing engineering technology majors Shujaa AlQahtani, of Saudi Arabia, Trevor M. Clouser, of Millmont, Darian P. Trego, of Mifflinburg, and Jonathan R. Sutcliffe, of Orangeville; engineering design technology majors Matthew J. Nyman, of Lock Haven, and Mark A. Turek, of Red Lion; and applied technology studies major Clinton R. Bettner, of Beaver Falls.

“This finish is just going to motivate me and the students even more,” Upcraft said. “We’re going to work really hard to prepare for the next race.”

That preparation must be quick. Penn College will be competing at its second and final event of the year June 7-10 at Baja SAE Illinois.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. For more, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

– Photos and video by Tom Speicher, writer/video editor

A colorful calling card puts the competition on notice.

A colorful calling card puts the competition on notice.

Johnathan T. Capps tries to stay cool prior to the race.

Johnathan T. Capps tries to stay cool prior to the race.

The college's #114 car shows its stuff.

The college’s #114 car shows its stuff.

Logan B. Goodhart, president of the Baja SAE Club, monitors the action.

Logan B. Goodhart, president of the Baja SAE Club, monitors the action.

The college's entry is barely recognizable after the race.

The college’s entry is barely recognizable after the race.

Penn College Baja co-captains Clinton R. Bettner (left) and Goodhart flank team driver Capps after the Wildcats' fifth-place finish in the endurance race.

Penn College Baja co-captains Clinton R. Bettner (left) and Goodhart flank team driver Capps after the Wildcats’ fifth-place finish in the endurance race.

A yucky, mucky mess

A yucky, mucky mess

 

Comments – One Comment

Great showing, guys! Your hard work paid dividends! Congratulations!

Posted by Dick LaCerra at May 30, 2017 at 7:55 am

Pennsylvania College of Technology is a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University