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Going Off Road: SAU Students Compete in 2018 Design Contest

September 2017 | by Dr. Andrew Lutz


For many engineering students, the most effective way to learn is by doing. Hands-on experiences allow students to connect the theoretical principles learned within the classroom to real-world scenarios, while simultaneously providing a valuable outlet for their creativity and inherent curiosity. Over the next year, a team of St. Ambrose students will put their engineering skills on the line and compete for the first time in the Baja Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) design competition.

Held annually since 1976, Baja SAE has quickly become one of the premier intercollegiate design competitions, with several events taking place throughout the world (three in the United States alone). The 2018 Baja SAE is in Portland, Oregon, May 30-June 2.

The objective of the competition is straightforward: Each team of students has less than one year to design, draft, build, and test a single-seat, off-road vehicle for the desired competition, while obeying the strict design constraints outlined by the SAE. During the event, each vehicle earns points on a series of grueling obstacle courses that individually test the car's ability to maneuver, accelerate, climb rocks, and ascend steep inclines. The four-day competition concludes with a four-hour endurance race within a total field of 100 cars.

At SAU, students are eager to start working. Over Spring 2017, news of the team began to spread, and membership has grown to nearly 24 active members. Moreover, the club elected officers which included junior Zach Anderson, president, a mechanical engineering student. In June 2017, the team's faculty advisor, Dr. Andrew Lutz, traveled with students to the Baja SAE event in Peoria, Illinois, where they met some of the other teams and experienced the competition first hand.

In August, the first phase began when the team laid out a project timeline and shared ideas, designs, and knowledge. Over the following months, the team will utilize the tools and skills they have acquired during their time at St. Ambrose University to push themselves beyond what they believe is possible and to grow and learn to become engineers.

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