RIT Mini-Baja Team Competes in South American Contest




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Rochester Institute of Technology’s mini-Baja team earned seventh place among 80 teams in the Mini Baja Brazil last weekend in São Paulo, RIT’s first 2004 competition. RIT was the only U.S. team —and the only one from outside Brazil—in the contest.

RIT’s nimble yet rugged student-built, off-road vehicle was put through the paces in categories including a four-hour endurance race and tests for acceleration, braking, hill climbing, maneuverability, top speed, traction and more. RIT placed first in structural integrity.

RIT’s 20-member team next competes in the Mini Baja West this weekend in Portland, Ore., followed by the Mini Baja East, May 6-8, in Montreal, and the Midwest Mini Baja, June 3-6, in Milwaukee. Each competition features unique challenges, such as the “rock crawl” in the West contest, water maneuverability in the East event and tractor pull in the Midwest competition.

“Our approach is to build the best car we can,” says Lee Gagne, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major and team manager. New features on this year’s cars include improved suspension and brakes.

For Gagne and his teammates, the chance to be on the mini-Baja team is a primary reason for attending RIT. After all, only a handful of colleges have mini-Baja teams and even fewer go to all three national competitions and international events in Brazil and South Africa. More goes into competing than building and driving cars, Gagne adds. Other students focus on key aspects such as finance and technical writing, and everyone learns to work as a team.

“It’s not all about winning—but that’s what we like,” Gagne says. “I love it.”

Mini-Baja competitions are sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers and Briggs & Stratton Corp.