Baja World Challenge at RIT

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The Wolverines led through most of the endurance race, but close on their tails were Tigers, Bears and Cardinals. Collegiate Baja race teams from Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, Ohio Northern University, and the University of Louisville were four of the 90 teams competing in the 2013 SAE Baja Rochester World Challenge this past weekend.

The University of Louisville Cardinals took first place during the four-hour endurance event, beating the University of Michigan Wolverines at the checkered flag by two seconds. RIT Racing, which placed seventh in the same event, also won the coveted Toyota Teamwork Award, given to the group that goes above and beyond helping other teams throughout the competition.

“Teams compete toe-to-toe in these competitions, but at the same time, when someone needs something, they offer assistance,” says Christopher Powell, sales and service manager of Briggs and Stratton, an event sponsor. “To me that is the Baja way—to compete, but to still have each other’s back—and the school that has helped repeatedly is Rochester Institute of Technology.”

National and international collegiate racing teams participated in the Society of Automotive Engineers design challenge, three-days of off-road racing held at RIT on June 7 and at Hogback Hill in Palmyra, N.Y., on June 8 and 9. This was the fifth time RIT has hosted the international design and race event. Colleges from seven countries were represented—the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, India and the United Arab Emirates—and more than 790 engineering and engineering technology students competed.

In individual events, RIT Racing placed second in acceleration and maneuverability, third in the hill climb, and tied for fourth in the design competition with Cornell University and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Brazil).

The top overall performance finishers were:

  • McGill University
  • Louisville
  • RIT
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil)
  • Ecole de Technologie Superieure (Canada)
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • University of Wisconsin Madison
  • Ohio Northern University
  • Iowa State University

Teams from India and the United Arab Emirates traveled more than 24 hours to attend the competition; fellow competitors from Mexico drove twice that amount of time to reach RIT. New York state teams participating included Cornell, Clarkson and Buffalo State.

“I like being around all the teams and seeing the way they work together,” says Eugenia Episcopo, Buffalo State’s team captain. The second-year mechanical engineering technology major was proud of her team’s performance, especially with many new members. “This is so much more than just putting parts together. It takes a lot of time, a lot of engineering. There’s a lot to the design, and good designers behind what we build.”

Baja events are an educational design competition, and companies come to the event to find students that are not only book smart, but business smart, says Shannon Henderson, Honda talent management/recruiter and an event volunteer. The international company is a long-time sponsor of SAE collegiate design programs.

“We participate in three of the Baja and two of the Formula events a year,” says Henderson. “We often look for mechanical and electrical engineers, the ones knowledgeable in those areas, but also those with enthusiasm for the work. If they already have the passion, these are the ones we are looking for.”

It takes nearly a year to design, build and test the off-road vehicles for competitions, says Tim Brogan, team manager for RIT Racing. Many of the students are engineering and engineering technology majors; however, to provide financial, marketing and logistical support, team members need more than technological skills.

“This is like a small business,” says Brogan, who will go into his fourth year at RIT in its mechanical engineering technology program.

Sam Barill, manager, SAE Collegiate Design Series, Educational Relations, agreed: “Companies come to the event for more than the fun,” Barill says. “These engineering students are the crème de la crème.”
Note: See a video by David Wivell of RIT University News and a photo gallery by RIT student Ryan Hurley for more 2013 SAE Baja Rochester World Challenge coverage.

Related stories:

Collegiate Baja Teams Race to RIT for 2013 World Challenge

RIT Baja team places in top-10 overall at first competition