Penn College Students Prep for International Competition

Published 05.09.2017

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While most of their classmates were celebrating the end of finals, a dedicated group of Pennsylvania College of Technology students remained ensconced in a machining lab, laboring on a project begun last summer. Their “exam” will be 1,100 miles from campus in late May.

The students are completing a new single-seat, off-road vehicle to compete against 100-plus colleges from around the world at Baja SAE Kansas. The Penn College contingent hopes to build upon past success during the May 25-28 Society of Automotive Engineers event at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.

“The commitment these students have shown is remarkable,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and adviser for the college’s Baja SAE Club. “For months, they have dedicated countless hours outside of class to building the car. I am very proud of their efforts.”

Logan B. Goodhart, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Chambersburg and president of Penn College’s Baja SAE Club, makes a part for the car the students will enter later this month at Baja SAE Kansas. The international competition tasks students with building a single-seat, off-road vehicle to face various performance challenges. A few weeks after finishing 11th out of 98 teams in the overall standings at Baja SAE Rochester last June, Penn College students began designing a new car for this year’s competition. Work on the chassis began in October, followed by the manufacturing of myriad parts for the dune buggy-like vehicle. Students have made 85 percent of the car’s components.

“Really, everything is new,” said Logan B. Goodhart, a manufacturing engineering technology major from Chambersburg, who serves as president of the Baja SAE Club. “The big change is the rear driveline. We have a whole new gearbox, as we dropped its weight from 26 pounds to 9.6 pounds. We’re also going to a different continuously variable transmission, which allows us to run a little bit lower gear ratios, allowing for tighter packaging.”

The new car weighs 320 pounds, approximately 60 pounds less than last year’s entry.

“All the cars have the same engine (single-cylinder, 10-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine), so it’s really about making the vehicle as efficient as possible,” Goodhart said. “One huge factor with that is the weight, but if you take weight out of the wrong area, the car is a lot weaker. The competition forces you to understand everything about the car.”

After industry judges inspect the vehicle’s design and review its cost report, the Penn College team will test the car in a series of dynamic events: acceleration, sled pull, maneuverability and suspension. A four-hour endurance race over rough terrain will conclude Baja SAE Kansas.

“If we race smart and keep the car together, we definitely have potential to do very well,” Goodhart said. “Of course, we always wish we had more time for testing and getting the bugs out, but this car has a lot of potential.”

Upcraft agreed.

“There are so many unknowns you have to face once the competition begins, but the new car has a lot of promise,” he said. “I can guarantee the students will have an amazing experience. It’s the ultimate practical project for students, and their involvement certainly attracts the attention of potential employers.”

Besides Goodhart, Penn College students competing at Baja SAE Kansas will be manufacturing engineering technology majors Shujaa AlQahtani, of State College, Trevor M. Clouser, of Millmont, Darian P. Trego, of Mifflinburg, and Jonathan R. Sutcliffe, of Orangeville; engineering design technology majors Matthew J. Nyman, of Lock Haven, and Mark A. Turek, of Red Lion; and applied technology studies majors Clinton R. Bettner, of Beaver Falls, and Johnathan T. Capps, of North Wales.

Less than a week after returning from Kansas, the team will head to its second and final competition of the summer: Baja SAE Illinois.

Those interested in supporting these students in their Baja SAE fundraising can donate online.

For information about manufacturing-related degrees offered by the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development. For more, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.