Hopefully you already know OSU is a great school for engineering; from everyone I know who has gone there, I’ve heard stories of homemade, powered skateboards and RC planes flying over campus. And those are just the things people do for fun. When they’re not working with the nuclear reactor (glows blue) or making one-legged walking robots (on the left) to research autonomous locomotion.
Well here’s a good in-between. It’s a step up from a skateboard (maybe a few steps up), but a little less school-oriented than some other programs OSU participates in: Mini Baja.
The Society for Automotive Engineering (SAE) has the Mini Baja competition every year, and it looks pretty cool. The point is to get university students into the rhythm of working with teammates to solve practical engineering problems—and solving those problems with the types of constraints which engineers always have to work around. But instead of building a truck for a mining company, you’re driving through an off-road course. Read the Mini Baja rules, straight from SAE. Check out page 11 for general vehicle specs, 19 for the roll-cage requirements, and 48 for the “Dynamic Events.” (Endurance event: a 4 hour race. I think yes.)
Yeah. So that’s what Mini Baja is all about. And OSU is all about winning it. Their team page shows that since 1998, they’ve won 5 times and gotten second 4 times. Because they’re thorough; check out the documentation their 2006 Mini Baja vehicle’s suspension.
Although this video isn’t OSU-related, it gives you a pretty good idea of what Mini Baja is about.
I think my favorite part is that the teams are required to fabricate their own parts, if they have access to a machine shop. These folks literally built the cart with their own hands. The engine is supplied so everyone is on an even playing field, but pretty much everything else is up to them.
The paperwork for the 2011 competition is due the 24th of this month, and the next competitions are coming up in April (Birmingham, AL), May (Kansas), and June (Illinois). There are 125 teams listed on the “Team Websites” page on SAE (and there are probably even more than that competing), so the competition is sure to be fierce. This is an event to watch out for, for sure. Especially when/if you are in college. Enter this. Win it. The monetary prizes are fairly modest (see the awards given out in the 2009 Oregon competition), but the real value is the prospective recruiting these companies may be doing at competitions like these.
Win an off-road go-kart race. Get recruited by a car manufacturing company as a designing engineer. I’ll take it.