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Penn College Engineering Students Compete in Mini Baja Midwest

From left, Michael A. Schino, Ewing, N.J.%3B Isaac D. Seidel, Blain%3B Kevin M. Vanderbeck, Hawthorne, N.J.%3B Christopher A. Hunter, Gibsonia%3B Timothy A. Senavaitis, Bernville%3B Zachary R. Mazur, New Kensington%3B Alan J. Wertz, Danville%3B and John G. Upcraft, faculty adviser.Seven members of the Pennsylvania College of Technology student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers participated in the 2006 Mini Baja Midwest competition which simulates real-world engineering-design projects and their related challenges and the group already is planning for the 2007 event.

The 2006 competition was held in Elkhorn, Wis., and was hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In the competitions, engineering students are asked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive the severe punishment of rough terrain and water. The events in which students participated were an endurance race, as well as acceleration, mud-bog, chain-pull and maneuverability competitions.

R&T Technologies, a Canton-area manufacturer, donated $2,000 to the Penn College SME chapter for its entry into the competition, presenting a check to members to help them develop their vehicle. Ingersoll Rand, Athens, donated air tools and a compressor valued at more than $2,800 to the project.

The students began working on the project at the beginning of the Fall 2005 semester, functioning as a team to design, build, test, promote and race their vehicle. The group competed against other teams to have its design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm.

In their first year of competition, the students placed 12th in design and eighth in the mud-bog events, and 83rd overall out of 113 teams from other colleges and universities across the continent, including Purdue, Ohio State and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Penn College's entry in the Mini Baja MidwestThe Penn College team completed 15 laps in the endurance test, during which teams are given four hours to complete as many laps as possible, taking breaks to fix their car, if needed. Most first-year teams don’t make it to the endurance race, held on the last day of the event, because their cars break down in the competitions that lead up to it, said John G. Upcraft, SME adviser and instructor of machine tool technology at Penn College.

Penn College students who participated are: Christopher A. Hunter, Gibsonia, manufacturing engineering technology; Zachary R. Mazur, New Kensington, manufacturing engineering technology; Michael A. Schino, Ewing, N.J., manufacturing engineering technology; Isaac D. Seidel, Blain, who graduated in May with an associate degree in toolmaking technology; Timothy A. Senavaitis, Bernville, manufacturing engineering technology; Kevin M. Vanderbeck, Hawthorne, N.J., manufacturing engineering technology; and Alan J. Wertz, Danville, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering technology.

John G. Marshalek, instructor of machine tool technology/automated manufacturing, and Upcraft accompanied the students. “I think anytime you can take what the students are learning in class and can apply it to a well-run college competition such as this, the benefits are immeasurable,” Upcraft said.

Four of the Penn College students who participated return to this year’s team. For the May 2007 Mini-Baja Midwest competition, to be hosted by RIT, the students plan to redesign the car’s drivetrain and rear suspension and reduce the car’s overall weight. The chapter is seeking new recruits to join the 2006-07 Mini Baja team.

In addition to proving their engineering and machining skills, the students developed camaraderie, especially with sister schools Penn State Altoona and Penn State Berks, whose trailers were nearby during the four-day event. “Even though it was a competition, everyone was very friendly,” Upcraft said, noting that teams shared tools and equipment without hesitation.

For more information about the Penn College SME student chapter, visit online .

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