Students develop baja vehicle for National SAE Competiton

For the past three years, students enrolled in the capstone course in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department have been working on an off road vehicle to enter into the National Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) Collegiate Baja Competition.

The open-framed buggy is nearly complete.

“Our initial goal is to have the baja vehicle drivable and reliable more than anything by the end of the quarter,” said Matt Mongin, who is a Mechanical Engineering Technology major.

All students in the capstone course are close to graduating.

Development of the vehicle began with the first capstone course in spring 2010. By spring 2011, the second class had created a fully drivable vehicle. Mongin, along with 15 other students, is in the third class. They have had 11 weeks to tweak, finish and prepare the vehicle for the competition.

“My students had to build a car around an engine,” said Assistant Professor Jamshid Moradmand. “A lot of sweat and labor has gone into this.”

When the buggy is complete, the Mechanical Engineering Department will enter it into the National SAE competition.

The goal is for the vehicle to be raced next year.

“Part of this competition is that there are a lot of strict safety standards,” Mongin said. “At the end of the 2011 team capstone course, they had a running vehicle. They were able to drive it around and start testing it, but it had a lot of issues.”

With 65 pages of rules and regulations that the four teams must adhere to,  Mongin said that the slightest oversight could get them eliminated in the competition. To avoid missing the smallest of safety standards, each student is assigned to a certain team, which include the safety team, the front suspension and brake team, the engine and transmission drive train team and the rear suspension and brake team.

“In 11 weeks, I have learned a huge amount of teamwork and communication,” Mongin said. “If one person or sub team fails, the entire team fails. Checking up with other teams is a must because in the end it is not about who did the individual project. It’s about how the team did.”

Putting the mini-baja together 

“The vehicle has actually been designed and fabricated by Sinclair students, from the frame to the suspension,” said Mongin. “We do use a 10 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine, and that’s provided for all the teams to level the playing field.”

The machine shop is where the team has been fabricating the parts for the baja vehicle, and with the help of Jim Unger Racing, who welded the buggy for free.

“The machine shop, along with Jim Unger Racing, the faculty and staff of the computer aided manufacturing have been an integral part of our success,” Moradmand said.

Toward the end of the quarter, Mongin said part of the team goal is to create a test track, so that everyone will have a chance to drive the vehicle.

Visions of the competition 

Judges for the competition will be scrutinizing the mini baja vehicle for design, quality, durability, acceleration, hill climbing as well as maneuverability, Moradmand said.

A four-hour endurance test, Mongin said, would ensure that the buggy can be driven for a long distance, determine how well the vehicle stays together and discover if the belts and chains remain tight. The judges will also analyze the engine, the tires, driver comfort and most importantly—safety.

“It looks very professional for what we’ve had to do,” Mongin said. “If you would have told me two years ago that my capstone would be building a baja buggy, I’d be like ‘yeah right.’”

On the right track 

While the four teams won’t have the opportunity to race the car this year, Mongin is optimistic for the 2013 team.

“Everyone takes pride in this,” he said. “It’s about how we can do this to win.”

And to win is the team’s ultimate goal.

Mongin graduates this year and has been accepted to Miami University in Middletown. He has high hopes that Sinclair, as a two-year college, will win the bragging rights to the 2013 baja buggy competition in July.

“I would love to be watching the news one day and they announce Sinclair as “the Champion of the National SAE Competition, I would absolutely love that.”

 

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