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OSU students go off-road for competition

Thursday, May 29, 2008

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President Hargis test drives the OSU Baja Team's vehicle during a recent tour of the Design Manufacturing Laboratory. The College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology facility provides students hands-on opportunities to bring to life theories and concepts and complete projects such as team entries in national and international design competitions.
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This weekend the OSU Baja Team is competing in Baja SAE Illinois 2008, one of three North American events in the Baja SAE Series presented as part of SAE International's Collegiate Design Series. The team has spent the past year preparing for the contest that requires students to design and build an off-road vehicle. Members of the team, consisting primarily of students from OSU's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and faculty adviser Camille DeYong are pictured with OSU President Burns Hargis, who is in the vehicle.
(May 29, 2008   Stillwater, OK) - School’s out, but the race is on for students representing Oklahoma State University in national competition this week.

A team from OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology is one of 115 competing in Baja SAE Illinois 2008. The May 29-31 contest at Caterpillar’s Edwards Demonstration facility near Peoria is one of three North American events in the Baja SAE Series, a part of the Collegiate Design Series presented by SAE International.

The competition requires students to design and build an off-road vehicle to endure the punishment of rough terrain and, sometimes, even water. With planning and manufacturing tasks similar to introducing a new product to the consumer market, teams also compete to have their design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm. Students not only design, build, test, promote and race their vehicles, but also raise funds and are responsible for all project management documentation.

Previous participation by OSU students in Baja competitions, including a sixth-place finish out of 60 teams in Baja SAE Florida in 2007, has helped the 16 members of the 2008 OSU Baja Team anticipate the demands of the Illinois contest.

“We have an idea about the dynamic events and endurance events, but we aren’t certain so, in the beginning, we try to come up with a design that’s going to be good all-around,” said Jeremy Hayes, OSU Baja Team president and a mechanical engineering senior from Bartlesville.

“Suspension, overall weight and weight distribution are important issues for traction and handling performance, and so is ground clearance because we want enough to go over rocks or anything they’ll put in our way, but not so much that it increases the rollover risks,” Hayes said. “We have all these key factors that must be integrated into the final design to make the car suitable for everything – rock crawl, acceleration, maneuverability, hill climb, endurance.”

All vehicles in the contest must meet the same safety standards and technical specifications, and are powered by 10-horsepower Intek Model 20 engines. For more than 25 years, Briggs & Stratton’s donation of engines has allowed SAE to provide teams with engines free of charge, and maintain a level competition field.

“SAE wants to see which team comes up with the design that best utilizes the amount of power that we’re given,” Hayes said.

According to Hayes, OSU’s Baja vehicle is capable of high, low-end power because the engine is married to a constantly variable transmission.

“For the first time in several years, one of the dynamic events is a hill climb so we looked for a transmission and suspension set-up that will allow us to get up the hill,” Hayes said. “We have no specifics on how steep it’s going to be, but based on our testing, we expect our car to climb a slope at about 45 degrees, give or take a little.”

The students enter the competition confident in the handling performance and toughness of the vehicle they designed. Demonstrating no fears about either, the team eagerly handed over the keys to a non-member when OSU President Burns Hargis recently toured the CEAT Design Manufacturing Lab. In the unique facility, OSU engineering students complement their educations with the hands-on experience of bringing to life their own projects and concepts.

“We were a little nervous, but there really wasn’t much for him to get into out there in the parking lot,” Hayes said. “Besides, we were happy to see President Hargis climb right in when we were showing him the car, and we were really excited he actually wanted to drive it.”

Participation in the competition this weekend by Hayes and 11 other OSU Baja Team members is the culmination of an entire year’s work, according to faculty adviser Camille DeYong, OSU associate professor of industrial engineering and management.  

“They get a little advice from faculty, but the students design it, build it and do everything themselves,” said DeYong, who accompanied the team to Illinois. “Zeeco has been exceedingly generous and negated some of the pressure on them, but the students do all the fundraising themselves, too.”

DeYong added, “And this project is not related to a class so they receive no course credit. It’s an extracurricular activity they volunteer their time and work very hard to get done, all for the experience.”  

Previously known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE International boasts 97,000 members and is the premier membership society dedicated to advancing mobility engineering worldwide. SAE is a global technology information and standards-setting resource for the design, manufacturing, operation and maintenance of automobiles, aircraft, space vehicles, off-highway equipment, trucks, buses, trains, marine craft, engines and self-propelled vehicles.

In addition to Baja SAE, the organization’s 2008 Collegiate Design Series includes aerospace, clean snowmobile and supermileage design challenges and the Formula SAE Series. A student team will represent OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology in Formula SAE West 2008 in Fontana, Calif., June 25-28.

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