LEWISBURG, Pa. - Team Bucknell's senior design project finished eighth among nearly 70 North American colleges and universities in the Society of Automotive Engineers' 2006 Mini Baja East Competition.
The eight-member team notched eighth-place overall Saturday, April 15, after finishing third in the punishing 75-mile or five-hour endurance race, the final competition held over three days. This year's Mini Baja East was hosted by Auburn University's College of Engineering in Alabama.
"Our team led for about 3.5 hours before experiencing a rollover," said Charles Kim, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. "As a result, we had to go back to our paddock and re-weld a portion of our frame. After getting back into the race, we fell behind by two or three laps from the leader and finally finished third."
Kim said the eighth-place finish obscures how well the team performed. "If it hadn't been for that rollover accident, we would have won the race. We had the best car out there," he said.
Co-captain Adam Freeman said participating in the event was both fun and a learning experience. "We learned a lot - all the way from design to the manufacturing process," he said. "It was a really satisfying experience."
Each team competed in a variety of events designed to test capability of the off-road, all-terrain vehicles built from scratch by team members. Competitions included log pull, deep-water maneuverability, land maneuverability, acceleration, suspension and traction events as well as Saturday's grueling 75-mile or five-hour race on a rough 2.2 mile off-road track in Opelika, Ala.
Overall ranking was based on total points earned across all events over three days.
Team Bucknell, driving Car No. 61, earned a total of 713.85 points for eighth place overall, behind Queen's University, Universite De Sherbrooke, Clarkson University, Tennessee Tech University, Auburn University, Louisiana State University, and the University of Rhode Island.
All eight team members participated in the driving. And, unlike other teams who have competed together year after year, the Bucknell team was composed of first-time seniors who worked on the Mini Baja competition as part of a senior design project.
The engineering competition, one of three regional events held in the U.S., provides real-world, hands-on learning for students. Competitors design and build an off-road vehicle that can survive the punishment of rough terrain. All vehicles are built around a 10 horsepower Briggs & Stratton Corp. snow-thrower engine.
"Students must function as a team to not only design, build, test, promote and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules, but also to generate financial support for the project - as well as manage educational priorities," the Society of Automotive Engineers said.
According to Jim Baish, professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, Bucknell has competed in the Mini Baja competitions for about 20 years. In 1999, Team Bucknell finished second overall, fifth in 1998, and 10th in 1997.