Baja SAE Team Places First in International Competition

Baja SAE Team Places First in International Competition
The off-road vehicles competed drove on extremely rough terrain.
The Baja SAE Team celebrates its first-place finish.
Cal Poly Pomona's off-road vehicle navigates the rocky terrain at the 2008 Baja SAE competition.

Despite brutally challenging courses and a sheared drive shaft, Cal Poly Pomona's Baja SAE Team raced to a first place finish at the 2008 Baja SAE competition in Edwards, Illinois. About 115 teams from around the world built off-road vehicles for the competition, held May 29 to June 1 at Caterpillar's Edwards Demonstration Center.

Formerly called the Mini-Baja, the Baja SAE challenges teams to design and build an off-road vehicle that must survive the severe punishment of rough terrain and sometimes water.

“There were fallen trees, stumps, huge gullies and ruts, and lots of mud. This was the most challenging course I can remember in my 14 years as SAE faculty advisor, and the toll on the vehicles was brutal,” said Mechanical Engineering Professor Clifford Stover.

The Cal Poly Pomona team took the overall win thanks to consistently strong performances throughout the three-day competition. In addition, they earned a second-place finish in the endurance race and second place in all combined dynamic events, which includes the Hill Climb and Rock Crawl.

On the last day of competition, the Baja SAE team faced a major hurdle during the all-day endurance race. The team was leading the field when a mistake in a rocky section sheared the vehicle's left drive shaft at the weld and was forced to be towed into the pits. Thanks to a Tig welder from LeTourneau University in Texas, the Cal Poly Pomona team was back in the race in 15 minutes. By the race's end, Cal Poly Pomona was only 5 seconds from the first place endurance race vehicle.

“We are ecstatic with our performance,” Stover said. “Our students' performance and professionalism is being commended not only SAE International, but all the corporate sponsors and competing universities alike. We are proud to be a top notch engineering school with exceptional students with excellent team skills.”

The Baja SAE is one of the most exciting and popular events of the SAE Collegiate Design Series. It consists of three regional competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and related challenges.

In the coming weeks, the Formula SAE Racing Team will compete in the SAE Formula West competition on June 25 to 28 at the California Speedway in Fontana. The competition will include events that test endurance and acceleration, among others.