Michigan Tech Baja Team Wins Best Design

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

At the Hill Climb
At the Hill Climb

Michigan Technological University’s team earned itself a gold at the Baja SAE Rochester competition, held June 10–13 at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in New York.

The team finished first in the design portion of the Society of Automotive Engineers competition. “That’s a very prestigious award,” said team advisor Brett Hamlin, assistant chair of Engineering Fundamentals. “It’s based on the quality of construction and analysis. The students designed and fabricated the entire vehicle, with the exception of the motor, a 10-hp Briggs and Stratton that no one’s allowed to modify.”

In particular, the students got high marks for their use of nontraditional materials. “For the past couple of years, we’ve been enhancing our use of carbon fiber,” Hamlin said. “We are the first and only team to have used it in suspension components.”

Other Baja SAE competitors have incorporated carbon fiber in their designs, but primarily in cosmetic applications. “We have used it in a functional manner, in components that require both lightness and strength,” said Hamlin.

The team finished 16th overall in a field of 92, a respectable showing. “A lot of the overall score depends on luck,” said Hamlin. “You are racing, and stuff happens when you are racing. So they are pretty happy with their results.”

“The students have worked really hard for the past several years in developing some of our core technologies, learning how to work with composites and improving their skills with computer controlled manufacturing,” Hamlin added. “They put it all together and came up with a very successfully designed and fabricated vehicle.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.